A “new chapter” awaits the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) with 600 people set to attend its annual conference at the Durban ICC in KwaZulu-Natal today.
Yesterday, the first delegates attended Afasa’s annual general meeting which concluded with a dinner with police minister Bheki Cele. Among the dignitaries scheduled for the conference are President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Thoko Didiza and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. They are the ministers of agriculture, land reform and rural development, and cooperative governance and traditional affairs, respectively.
Hosted under the theme “Collaborating and rebuilding to strengthen the collective African farmers’ voice,” the conference will also see heavyweights from the South African Farmers’ Development Association (Safda) and the South African Grain Farmers’ Association (Sagra) in attendance.
Chairperson of the organising committee Pitso Sekhoto tells Food For Mzansi the conference will look at what the organisation has achieved in the past ten years while also unveiling a new vision.
“The conference will be about where we are now and the challenges farmers encounter. Importantly, it is not us who will be talking, but decisionmakers like minister [Thoko Didiza] about the agriculture and agro-processing master plan, [and] Senzo Mchunu, the minister of water [and sanitation] about water rights. We will also have the president addressing our gala dinner.”
‘A united front’
Sekhoto is hopeful that the organisation will usher in a new era for Afasa, which according to many insiders in the agriculture sector has seen a decline since the death of Dr Vuyo Mahlati, its former president, in 2020.
“It is upon us to bring an image of hope and association where every black farmer knows that Afasa is the home where [they] belong,” says Dr Siyabonga Madlala, the executive chairman of Safda.
“We need to come out of this conference united. We need to capture the whole value chain of agriculture as farmers. We need to buy from each other without looking at who is the owner.”
Madlala believes that opportunities can be better maximised through a united front. This would also see the expropriation of land being realised, he adds. “We need to review the path we have taken as an organisation in transformation and rural development. We need to stop working in silos. We need to support each other without asking for discounts.”
Meanwhile, Afasa youth leader Kea Mnguni says the organisation’s youth and women want to make a meaningful contribution in the agriculture sector.
“We want to align ourselves with the master plan and know how it works. Young people want to venture into agro-processing and not only do production, but we also want to see skills transfer and young people being involved in agriculture.”
Afasa’s youth and women members must robustly engage on matters of energy and land, adds Mnguni. “We want to rebuild youth and women structures in Afasa, and this is the right platform.”
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