Agricultural Watch

Finally some land reform consensus

Johannes Möller on land reform

After years of bickering it seems that at least some of the stakeholders in agriculture finally agree in principle on the way forward for land reform.

Agri SA, the largest agriculture organisation for commercial farmers, proposed a set of principles with regard to land reform at its recent general meeting.

“Agri SA is committed to developing and implementing proposals whereby the agricultural community can play a leading role in sustainable land reform, the development of entrepreneurship and the social upliftment and development of farm workers and farm worker communities,” Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA, said.

The minister of Rural Development & Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti who attended the meeting, accepted the proposals as the beginning of a workable start to formulate policy that will satisfy the larger part of stakeholders.

The starting point for successful rural development and land reform is said to be the empowerment of farmers and rural dwellers to determine their own future. According to Agri SA, this should lead to an increase in the number of previously disadvantaged people who now have property rights to agricultural land and contribute towards meeting the increasing demand for food.

A well designed and well implemented land reform dispensation will contribute towards a stable, viable and profitable agriculture industry. Should this happen, it will help to stimulate agriculture development in communal and other under-developed areas.

The dispensation that Agri SA envisaged should contribute towards the achievement of national objectives such as food security, job creation and poverty alleviation.

The proposals must comply with the guidelines of the constitution of the country, give full recognition to economic and market realities and should not necessarily be dependent on state support, as it could utilise the potential of private-public partnerships as far as possible.

One of the aspects of land reform that is often not taken into account is the diversity of agriculture such as regions, commodity branches and size of farming units. Agri SA says this requires suppleness within a variety of options whereby land reform can be achieved.

It is also proposed that participation in land reform should not be compulsory, but it should be sufficiently incentivised in order for all landowners to consider participation.

Private property rights are seen as the preferred approach to agricultural development, but attention should also be given to approaches whereby commercial agricultural development can be promoted in communal areas.

Agri SA warns on the negative impact and unacceptability of physical land owner ceilings. The requirements of large farming operations AgriBEE compliance could be a more acceptable approach to empowerment. It could even include the implementation of participatory models as a prerequisite for expansion of land ownership.

On the way forward, Agri SA says it undertakes to participate in projects in a dedicated manner with a view to enhancing confidence in agriculture, unlocking growth possibilities and broadening participation in agriculture.

by Hennie Duvenhage

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