I’m sadly aware of the many failures with land redistribution and the establishment of emerging farmers. Let’s consider a project that is part success, part failure and compare the dynamics between them.
I’m sadly aware of the many failures with land redistribution and the establishment of emerging farmers. Let’s consider a project that is part success, part failure and compare the dynamics between them. Government took over an 8 000ha tract of prime farming land on the Mpumalanga/KZN border and gave it to the local, impoverished community. Somebody did a deal about three years ago with a private company to lease 100ha and establish raspberries under cover. Apart from the general manager (GM), the entire workforce of around 140 people is from the local community. Once the project gets up to full speed and 60ha is under cover in a few years, there will be employment for over 500 people.
The GM has extensive experience in berry production and marketing; he’s a good manager, which is evident from his interaction with staff and above all, he has a passion for and dedication to what he’s doing. His senior staff seem to share these qualities. The remainder of this farm remains unfarmed. Having started off with over 800 head of cattle, they are down to half of that. The potential of the farm includes forestry, excellent grazing, crops and game. The 1 000 trustees (recipients) have a committee representing them that seems unable to reach agreement on major issues. Meanwhile, fences and farm sheds are collapsing; no-one is working the land.
The most fundamental requirement for making land redistribution work is people. Empower them with knowledge, skills and the motivation needed for agriculture. Add good leadership into the mix and watch them make that land productive!
Land claims aren’t the issue, it’s the manner of application that causes concern. People are handed property without resources and expected to get on with it. How many of them even want to be farmers? I can’t believe that all 1 000 trustees were clamouring to be farmers. How many fully understood the implications of becoming owners of prime farming land? How many had a vision for that farm? Instead we find another project sliding into ruin while the beneficiaries are no better off – possibly worse off as they still don’t have jobs – and productive, food-producing land decays further.
The berry project, on the other hand, is run on sound business principles. There’s a plan, there’s commitment, there’s one GM who takes responsibility, there’s leadership, income and jobs, with more to come. Committees can never run farms, only good managers can. When will our politicians get the message? – Mike Cordes
Contact Mike Cordes on [email protected]. |fw