The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has signed a new memorandum of agreement with eleven agricultural custodians to help black upcoming farmers. This forms part of the department’s “commodity approach” to land reform, which has proven very successful in the province.
This approach involves various agricultural commodity groups, who have partnered with the department and the Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas (Casidra). This public-private partnership provides support to agricultural land reform recipients such as funding, mentorship, training, equipment and infrastructure. In addition, they also help smallholder farmers get access to the market, which is very important if they are to become a commercial success.
According to Beverley Schäfer, Western Cape MEC of Economic Opportunities, the success of this approach has been confirmed through an independent evaluation on the support to agricultural land reform beneficiaries and new entrants. “It shows a great achievement, but this was not done in isolation. So, the continued commitment of the private sector was confirmed through the signing of Memoranda of Agreements,” she says.
“This public-private partnership provides support to agricultural land reform recipients such as funding, mentorship, training, equipment and infrastructure.”
Role players participating in this farmer development programme include Potatoes SA, Vinpro, Grain SA, Deciduous Fruit Producers Trust, South African Poultry Association, Red Meat Producers Organisation, National Wool Growers Association, South African Table Grape Industry, South African Pork Producers Association, The South African Citrus Growers’ Association and the Seed Industry.
Since 2014, over 200 mentors, across the commodities, have been appointed to support smallholder farmers and land beneficiaries at no cost to the department or to the farmers themselves. Byron Booysen (29), who farms with cocktail and beef tomatoes in Kraaifontein, Cape Town, says he is happy with the program, but there are a few things that can change.
“The program is informative, and it gives first-hand information of what government wants to plan in terms of emerging farmers. They have now moved away from a 100% grants system, because some people have taken advantage, but the new policy I personally feel is going to exclude many emerging smallholder farmers from funding.
“Although our performance is good, we now need assets and guarantees that we do not necessarily have to get excess to funding to get us on to the next level. I am unsure whether private sector funding will really support us and come to the party,” says Booysen.
According to Jannie De Villiers, Grain SA Chief Executive, his commodity organisation has been working with black developing farmers in the Western Cape for many years and has now teamed up with the provincial agriculture department.
Over the next five years, Grain SA plans to continue and strengthen their support to black developing farmers through various strategies, including on-farm training in the farmers’ mother tongue and promoting information transfer through one-on-one farm support.
“Grain SA is working very closely in a team with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture as well as with the National Wool Grower’s Associations of South Africa (NWGA), Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO), local agribusinesses and Grain Farmer Development Association (GFADA) to assist new farmers on a commercial level,” says De Villiers.
Inviting other commodity groups to partner with new farmers and the department in the future, Schäfer says: “The Western Cape is the only province to have perfected the commodity approach and we believe that with continued partnerships like these, we have the ability to build black smallholder farmers into commercial success stories.”