Land reform threatens SA's food
Cape Town - Failed land reform projects threaten food security in South Africa, warns a study by the FW de Klerk Foundation, launched in Cape Town on Thursday.
The document - titled Land Reform: A Contextual Analysis - says the country's food security is already under pressure.
"Ten years ago [South Africa] exported agricultural products to the value of R2.40 for every one rand imported, compared to current levels of R1.40 of exports for every one rand imported."
The country could therefore not afford the non- or under-utilisation of arable land.
"Failed land reform projects threaten food security... A land reform policy in which land is pro-actively acquired by the State and only transferred to black South Africans once potential beneficiaries have been identified could place even more arable land outside the sphere of the commercial agricultural sector."
The study says that, according to AgriSA, a total of 71 land reform projects in Limpopo had already failed as a result of "inadequate support" for emerging farmers.
"It was also found in a survey of reform projects in the Western Cape that [they] were often unsuccessful because the skills of the beneficiaries had not been timeously upgraded."
Production decreased drastically
Further, the University of Pretoria analysis of progress on farms transferred to black farmers had found, among other things, that on 44% of them production had decreased drastically, and on 24% there had been no production since transfer to the new owners.
The foundation's study says one of the challenges facing land reform was farming had become increasingly knowledge driven.
"Inexperienced participants should accordingly enjoy comprehensive support from the State, or via mentorship from existing farmers. However, it is not clear whether the Department of Land Affairs is in a position to provide such support effectively."
Land reform beneficiaries also needed access to considerable credit, especially in the initial stages of projects.
Work with white farmers
The study also notes there is a lack of capacity at land affairs, and suggests the department work with existing white farmers.
"In the absence of state capacity to support emerging farmers one must look to alternative channels through which support could be offered."
It suggests one such mechanism would be to offer incentives to white farmers who help emerging black farmers, but observes that "in the current political climate, it seems unlikely that such an initiative will enjoy positive consideration".
On the future of land reform in South Africa, the study calls on government to acknowledge the agricultural sector has limited capacity to serve as a catalyst for socio-economic development.
"There should be greater focus on urban land reform - where the demand for land and housing is greater."
It says land reform targets that "simply require the transfer of a particular quantity of land to black South Africans, without taking into account other factors that can influence the sustainability of the projects, have to be reconsidered".
Government aims to transfer a third of agricultural land in South Africa to black farmers by 2014.(To do WHAT!?? Nothing!!) Progress towards this target has been very slow, with only about four percent transferred to date.
Zimbabwe-style land invasions
Speaking at the launch, AgriSA land affairs policy advisor Annelize Crosby said growing frustration among black South Africans over the slow pace of land reform should not be underestimated.
Responding to a question, she ruled out any immediate threat of Zimbabwe-style land invasions however, saying South Africa was very different to its northern neighbour.
"We have a clear Constitution, good policy and good regulations. The problem is with people getting frustrated. While Zimbabwe-style land invasions are not an immediate threat, we should not underestimate not doing land reform," Cosby said.
Also speaking at the launch, the foundation's executive director, Dave Steward, said land reform in South Africa was one of the most "difficult, delicate and important topics in the national debate".
Such transformation was "emotional and complicated".
"It is crucially important that land reform is something that we all do together - transformation 'with' rather than 'against'," he said.
----(Cry my beloved country!...that's all I can say!)