The purchasing of farms by the state for land distribution purposes must from now on include the farm’s equipment and its water rights, according to a directive issued by rural development and land reform minister, Gugile Nkwinti.
This is part of the minister’s drive to free the land redistribution process of developmental bottlenecks.
It follows complaints by some new landowners that previous landowners had removed the farming equipment.
And indeed some previous owners have legitimately claimed back their equipment because officials inadvertently left it out of sale contracts.
This left new farmowners without implements to work their newly acquired land.
In some cases new farmowners refused to hand over farm equipment to the former landowner.
In some instances parties ended up taking each other to court.
Water rights have also been a bone of contention as these too were sometimes of the sale negotiations.
This has left some new land beneficiaries not knowing what to do because – in our water scarce country – farming cannot take place without adequate water supplies.
Some of these problems have had implications for other departments such as Water Affairs.
For start-up farmers, negotiations for water rights have also consumed a lot of their time.
Moreover, obtaining water rights have also had significant cost implications for some of the new farmers who have had to engage lawyers.
The compounded effect was not only that production was held up, but in some instances these problems led to the collapse of land reform farms.
The minister’s moves are designed to allow new farmowners to hit the ground running and to be productive without impediments.
Once the new policy directive is applied across board, it is is hoped that aspiring farmers who may otherwise been discouraged by the exorbitant farming costs and the rigmarole of negotiating for water, will enter the agriculture sector.
The new measures are also expected to significantly improve production on farms and therefore to boost food security.
Presently the country depends mainly on 28000 white commercial farmers for food production.
Farmers from this pool are continually being poached by our neighbouring and overseas countries because of their farming skills.
Nkwinti’s new policy stance can be traced back to the Freedom Charter which stipulates that the government will provide farming implements to peasant farmers.
The new initiative will also strengthen the relative land rights for farmworkers (in terms of the 50/50 programme).
And former landowners will benefit in that when they dispose of their farms, land equipment and water rights will be paid for.
This will bring about a smooth transfer of land from landowners to the previously landless people and bring about stability in the land reform process, ultimately improving social cohesion and nation-building.
Because land ownership is an entry point for wealth creation, the more we establish productive farms, the more we will stave off the scourges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The successes achieved so far bear testimony to this.
Many emerging farmers have proved to be highly successful farmers in their own right, developing their land into prosperous farming ventures that have surpassed all expectations.
Some of these emerging farmers are still very young but have had the benefit of mentoring.
For example, the Nkanini restitution project in KwaZulu-Natal where youths with matric are trained in sugarcane production, is a shining example.
Another is the Keiskammahoek Dairy project in the Eastern Cape has grown in leaps and bounds and now supplies milk to various outlets across the province.
It has now reached the stage where its owners have decided to establish a cheese factory as an extension of their milk production business.
Some emerging farmers are not only selling in the domestic space but have ventured beyond our borders, exporting their produce and competing with the best in the world.
The Birbury pineapple farming business in Bathurst, owned jointly by workers and the department, has had much success in helping to drive back poverty in the unemployment ravaged Albany district.
The Macadamia farming business at Ncera near East London is another excellent example of how a previously disadvantaged community can, with the help of the government, uplift itself and attain a better life.
Emerging farmers who have been given adequate support in terms of water supplies and equipment in Mpumalanga and Limpopo have been able to generate sufficient resources to establish education funds and so send their children to tertiary institutions.
Other examples are the Matsafeni restitution project, the Mhlaba sugarcane project and Matjeni in the rural areas Limpopo and Mpumalanga which have overcome immense obstacles and become viable commercial farms, thereby providing needed jobs and employment in their previously impoverished areas.
These successes have come about as a result of the development support provided by the government’s programme of recapitalisation and development which is designed to assist emerging farmers with technical and material support until they are able to operate on their own.
The minister’s new policy directive for water rights and farm equipment to be included in land acquisition, is the cherry on top of a programme designed to strengthen and establish a new breed of farmers.
Mtobeli Mxotwa is spokesman of the Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform