NEWS
12/03/2018 06:53 SAST | Updated 12/03/2018 11:04 SAST

Black Farmers: This Is What Government Should Do To Help Us

"Land acquisition is a major constraint for black farmers, along with the lack of financial support to keep their farms afloat long enough to establish going concerns."

Pontsho Mabena

Farmer Maseli Letuka says farming is not considered a fashionable career, especially in the black community, where many prefer office jobs – and that this mentality needs to change, as the farming sector has many opportunities.

"The tendency of blacks is to [find] white-collar [jobs], to sit in an office with a tie, to get a salary from somebody. But in agriculture, you get somebody then you pay them irrespective of culture – because you want expertise," he told HuffPost, implying that farming is about practical skills, rather than "looking the part" to fit into a corporate culture.

He said there are three key areas that government has to look at, to give black people a chance to be farmers.

Land acquisition is a major constraint for black farmers, he said, along with the lack of financial support for them to keep their farms afloat long enough to establish going concerns. Letuka and other farmers we spoke to also worry about capacity among government structures meant to provide support to emerging farmers.

"Government must close that gap. They must go to the universities, bring these experts at the universities into their ranks."

As his counterpart, Shadrack Mbele, pointed out, government officials who are chosen to lead the agricultural sector are not always well-equipped.

Mbele said that if he had the opportunity to make important decisions concerning farming, he would employ MECs with a strong farming background.

"I would relook the policies and make sure that the director-general I appoint is a person with the basics of agriculture. He must be from the farmer organisation," he said.

Ponstho Mabena

"I would also make sure that the MECs of agriculture in different provinces are from the ranks of [agricultural] organisations, because they will know what to do and when to do it. They will know exactly what South Africa needs," he added.

He said there is a need for projects that support district farmers. "That would be a win."

And he lamented that government is not doing enough to equip black farmers. He said strong ties were needed between universities who offer agricultural education and government, to help predominantly black farming organisations to flourish.

"Government needs to improve its relationship with the universities. If you look to the organisations of whites, there are some economists from the universities, there are some scientists from the universities
who are working with them," he said.

"Government must close that gap. They must go to the universities, bring these experts at the universities into their ranks," he added.

The EFF's recent motion to introduce land expropriation without compensation has sparked debate about land and agriculture.

The motion was passed last month, and the Constitutional Review Committee must report back to Parliament by August 30.