The presidents of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa), the National African Farmers Union of South Africa (Nafu SA), Agri SA and the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (Tau-SA), as members of the Agri Sector Unity Forum (Asuf), on Monday declared their intent to work together to develop a national strategy for the agriculture sector from the perspective of organised agriculture.
The purpose is to, in collaboration with government, develop a joint development plan for agriculture and ensure a growing and inclusive agricultural sector aligned with the outcomes of the National Development Plan (NDP).
These outcomes will, among others, entail food security, job creation, development, sustainability and higher levels of competitiveness, while building mutual trust and collaboration and bringing about stability in the sector.
Additionally, the organisations aim to identify all the constraints, especially in terms of government policies, plans and institutional capacity, that are impeding the development and growth in the sector and initiate alternative interventions.
The engagement of these parties, Afasa president Vuyo Mahlati explained, mainly dealt with the issues of inequality within the agricultural sector, as well as the failure of land reform.
Additionally, she pointed out that, while it has not been an easy journey – the four parties “don’t necessarily agree as far as the issue of land expropriation without compensation” – the parties appreciate the diversity of views.
“What brings us together is the fact that we believe we have a responsibility of crafting a very progressive national agriculture development plan that is going to address issues of inclusivity and sustainability and we will ensure that we deal with these issues, which we are facing, very extensively”.
In the spirit of the agricultural sector having the aim of coming up with a national development strategy for an inclusive and sustainable sector, Asuf VP Pitso Sekhoto also announced on Monday that Asuf will, in November, host an indaba for the agricultural sector.
“While we take cognisance of the NDP and Operation Phakisa’s outcomes and many other important documents and processes, we want to build trust within our sector and come up with a national strategy that will address a number of concerns that we all agreed on”.
These concerns, he elaborated, include problems with the current land reform policies and programmes, which are “so comprehensive and intricate that it is unlikely that these can be fixed, and instead needs a complete redesign”, as well as post-settlement support for new farmers, export led growth for black farmers, and the “massive institutional failure at departmental level, which is an impediment to transformation in the sector”.
Additionally, Sekhoto pointed out that there is also a severe lack of a value chain approach towards development and that more opportunities should be created for women and youth in the sector.
A lack of trust among industry stakeholders needs to be addressed urgently, he added, while financial mechanisms, which support black farmers, are also urgently required.
“There is a lack of accountability towards transformation and nobody is held accountable for mistakes made on land reform. Former homelands are in a state of deep poverty and need urgent reform mechanisms,” he lamented, adding that the methodology of farm valuations needs to be reviewed.
Sekhoto further said that the negative impact of opportunism in some cases on the prices of land and the quality of land offered to the state for land reform, needs to be acknowledged and should be addressed, while the impact that technology will have on the agriculture sector should be considered as well.
Innovation, he added, is needed to ensure the sustainability of the sector.
Additionally, Sekhoto noted that the Land Bank is not functioning as a development finance institution and is subsequently not supporting black farmers adequately.
“In the statement of intent, the value of ownership and assets are acknowledged as a crucial means to secure collateral at finance institutions. Private ownership, and the free market principle, are accepted as the basis for economic growth,” he added.
An agricultural development plan, he averred, should be economically sustainable.
This sentiment was supported by Tau-SA president Louis Meintjies, who added that “we believe that we can grow the economy, by creating jobs and getting people to work so that they can buy their own houses and have dignity”, highlighting that this should be the aim of the plan.
He further noted that government should be inclusive in its dealings with the agricultural sector of South Africa.
Deputy President David Mabuza, who oversaw the signing on Monday, reiterated government’s support of the statement of intent and conveyed a message of support from President Cyril Ramaphosa, adding that the organisations have “done our country proud by coming together as leaders”.
Agri SA president Dan Kriek and Nafu-SA president Motsepe Matlala also signed the statement of intent on behalf of their organisations.