by koos coetzee
‘It seems government officials and politicians have little sympathy for commercial farmers and actually want them off the land. This may not be government’s true stance, but they do very little to put the record straight.’
Farmers must ignore attempts to demotivate them, and change the threats they face into opportunities. There are many different theories about the factors that motivate people, one of which is Herzberg’s theory. Herzberg divided the factors that influence a worker into hygiene factors and motivating factors. Hygiene factors are the physical work environment, basic salary, proper equipment and other things that make it possible to do the work. lack of these creates unhappiness amongst workers.
However, the theory also says that the mere absence of negative hygiene factors does not create employee satisfaction. People who work under these conditions are not unhappy – but they are not motivated to do their best.
People only become motivated if they experience the real motivating factors, such as recognition and job enrichment. All successful farmers realise that money alone will not ensure a motivated workforce, and have gone a long way towards addressing not only hygiene factors such as good housing but also the factors that motivate their workforce.
Consultants such as Arnold Moll and Wolhuter Backer, as well as the work of the now-defunct Rural Foundation, contributed massively to this. While farmers do a lot to motivate their own workers, little is done to get and keep the farmers themselves motivated. In fact they are attacked on both the hygiene and motivation levels. Government is particularly guilty of this.
Farmers prefer farming and do not want to spend their whole day in an office trying to comply with multiple regulations and registrations. The agriculture minister’s latest action – declaring that all farm feeds must be registered in terms of Act 36 of 1947 – is a good illustration of the sort of red tape farmers have to face. Government’s attitude seems negative G overnment regulations not only add to the administrative burden, but also cause problems between farmers and workers.
The sectoral determination of wages in agriculture limits in-kind payments to workers. In the past most farmers included rations in workers’ pay packets, but the new regulation forced them to stop. Workers now have to buy their own rations, in many cases at very inflated prices, from dealers. Farmers hear constantly that they contribute less than 3% to the total gross domestic product (making agriculture smaller than the taxi industry!). The truth is that the South African economy is largely dependent on agriculture to provide sustained economic development. Mining, the other primary activity, is much larger, but uses a non-renewable source of production which will be depleted in time.
Agriculture, on the other hand, uses renewable resources. he current Zimbabwe situation is a huge demotivator for farmers, especially if they are told they must do this and that unless they want a Zimbabwe-style land-grab. An act of parliament protects workers’ security of tenure, but farmers are told that the principle of willing-buyer, willing-seller no longer applies to them. The target of 30% of SA land under black ownership has apparently been changed to 30% of land in every district. Some even say that this figure is not the ultimate target but just an interim one.
It is difficult to remain motivated when your security is directly threatened. ropaganda about alleged farm evictions and abuse of farmworkers is splashed all over the media, but when these allegations are shown to be false, the media remain silent. overnment officials and politicians appear to have little sympathy for commercial farmers and actually want them off the land. This may not be government’s true stance, but they do very little to put the record straight.
As long as government officials make life as difficult as possible for farmers, farmers will not cooperate in achieving the very valid goals of the sector plan for agriculture. Turning threats into opportunities he success or failure of farming operations will be determined not by these demotivating factors but by the way in which farmers change these threats into opportunities.
AgriBEE and land reform provide opportunities for farmers to expand their operations. Agribusinesses must show government they are involved in developing businesses with formerly disadvantaged individuals.
Organised agriculture has the job of addressing government policy and trying to convince them how important and fragile the agricultural sector is. Individual farmers must find solutions for their own businesses and leave the macroenvironment in the capable hands of bodies like Agri and the producer organisations. Dr Koos Coetzee is an agricultural economist at the Milk Producers Organisation. All opinions expressed in this column are his own and do not reflect MPO policy. |fw