Landbouweekblad panel discussion. By Engela Duvenage.
Four panellists shared their experiences of South Africa’s land reform programmes at the Hortgro Science Technical Symposium. The session was sponsored by the agricultural magazine Landbouweekblad, and was ably chaired by editor Chris Burgess.
Gerrit van Vuuren, a director at Joubert Van Vuuren Attorneys in Ceres, is involved in the Partnership in Agri Land Solutions (PALS). It was initiated by leading farmers in 2014, now involves 33 projects countrywide and recently branched out to Mpumalanga, the Overberg, Robertson, and the Eastern Cape.
Van Vuuren said PALS is about good corporate governance and about implementing as many initiatives as possible “to enlarge the joint impact and negotiating power of the farming sector.”
“Farmers wanted to be part of the solution, not the problem,” Van Vuuren explained. “They realised that the private sector must lead the process, using sound legal and business principles.”
“There’s good stories in our communities,” he said, noting that the local economy of Ceres had grown with 8% since the inception of PALS.
André Cloete has farmed with apples, pears, barley, cattle, and sheep for the past decade on Klein Ezeljacht near Greyton. He serves in organised agriculture and won the Toyota New Harvest of the Year award in 2016.
Cloete explained how being a beneficiary of government’s Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy has drawbacks, in that the state owns the land.
“Although I have increased the value of my land by adding new orchards, I do not have a title deed in hand. I have no collateral to go to banks for loans,” Cloete explained. “It is very difficult. I’ve been fighting this since I started.”
He said that his success would not have been possible if it was not for the help and support of his neighbours, his family, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, The Jobs Fund, initial bridging finance from Capespan, and loans from the Two-a-Day Group.
Rita Andreas started off as a farm worker at Bosman Family Vineyards outside Wellington and was chair of the farm’s Adama Workers Trust. She is currently the mayoral committee member for rural development in the Drakenstein municipal council.
“If I’d been stuck in the past and only saw myself as a vulnerable farm worker, I would not have been where I am today,” she noted.
Williams had advice for the audience on how to start with land reform. “The people you already work with are the best people to take forward with you. If you believe in your people, you can change their lives for the better. If you believe in transformation, do it.”
She praised farmers who invest in uplifting their workers by providing better housing and training opportunities. “Nowadays most people coming out of towns to farms are jealous of what the farm workers have on the farms.”
Kosie van Zyl was a fourth-generation farm manager in the Overberg. He became a commercial grain and stock farmer in Napier in his own right after a neighbour offered to lend him money to buy his land. In 2006 he paid it forward, and set up the successful Agri Dwala BEE project to allow people from the local community to farm too.
“After ten years of being a commercial farmer, I had the desire to help others,” he explained. “It’s about people. Land is only our tool to survive. Ownership is important, but good relationships will be our goal until the end.”
More from the panel
- Transformation is a growth process based on mutual respect.
- The process needs honest, direct conversations between role players to manage expectations, right from the start.
- Beneficiaries should receive extensive training to better understand the long-term benefits of different options, such as receiving dividends.
- Plans should include the option of taking shares, rather than only actively work the land.
- Government should be on time with payments and loans allocated to beneficiaries of land reform projects.
- Financial institutions such as banks should develop more flexible ideas to help beneficiaries who do not own the land they farm.
- Farms should always be run according to good business models.
- Government must learn from past mistakes and successes.
- Models should include an exit strategy for when participants are taken ill, pass away, resign, or have disputes.
- Contracts should be clearly worded.
Image: From left Chris Burgess, Editor of Landbouweekblad, Gerrit van Vuuren, Rita Andreas, and André Cloete.
Supplied by Carmé Naudé | Hortgro.