Executive chair of the South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA), Dr Siyabonga Madlala addressing delegates at the third annual AFASA Agri-business conference in Bloemfontein.
Executive chair of the South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA), Dr Siyabonga Madlala, addressing delegates at the third annual AFASA Agri-business conference in Bloemfontein.

A lot can still be done to incorporate bigger black participation in the agricultural sector and this needs to be actively addressed in the next ten years. This was the sentiment of many at the AFASA Agri-business Transformation Conference in Bloemfontein, where the role of government and others in achieving this goal was highlighted.

The assistance provided to black farmers were one of the main topics of discussion at the annual gathering of farmers and agribusinesses. Many delegates and speakers conceded that transformation was not where they want it to be and some made it clear that they are were fed up with what were called “the empty promises of government” by one delegate.

Representatives of six commodity organisations took part in discussions on the second and third day of the conference. They spoke about their dreams and plans for the next ten years. Government and some corporates in the agriculture sector in turn shared their commitments to the future.

Thembi Xaba, CEO of the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber (DFDC) said her organisation’s ten year plan mainly focuses on ensuring that there is participation of women and youth in the sector. However, the transformation of the value chain is their most important priority. “We are saying that 30% of the exports should be from black producers,” she said.

Aggrey Mahanjana, CEO of National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation (NERPO)
Aggrey Mahanjana, CEO of National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation (NERPO).

Aggrey Mahanjana, CEO of National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation (NERPO), says his organisation’s stance on commercialisation in its sector has not changed since it took demands to the union buildings a few years ago. It still wants targeted improvement. “We said we want 50 commercial farmers to be supported completely each year in each province over a five year period.”

Mahanjana said it is also not enough to have only have names and numbers. “We want people who are successful commercial farmers.” Further items on NERPO’s list are at least two feedlots and two abattoirs, which are owned, operated and used by black people.

According to Dr Siyabonga Madlala, executive chair of the South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA), the goal is to integrate more farmers into the value chain.

He says the small-scale and marginalized farmers in the sugar industry he represents do not have the means to compete with commercial farmers. Therefore alternative measures are needed. This includes SAFDA assisting black farmers to have better access to fertilizer, diesel, herbicides, trucks and tractors.

“We are introducing cooperative models that addresses ownership (of these inputs and implements), but in a community. We own it jointly, because our farmers can’t all buy these things,” he says. “Small farmers cannot survive in their individual capacities.”

MEC for agriculture and rural development in the Free State, William Bulwane.
MEC for agriculture and rural development in the Free State, William Bulwane.

SAFDA also helps influence policies to end the exclusion of their members. Madlala says the vision is to bring about structural and business changes to promote black farmers.

William Bulwane, MEC for agriculture and rural development in the Free State, shared his province’s commitments to commercialise 413 black farmers, support 2 935 smallholder farmers and 19 500 households, as well as the creation of 13 623 jobs, in the next five to ten years in his province. The province aims to do this in sectors such as livestock, poultry, dairy, grains and horticulture.

According to Bulwane, economic transformation and job creation will be given priority. The province plans to focus on education, skills and health, as well as spatial integration, human settlement and local government to achieve these goals.

“We will focus on high impact projects and revitalise the failing projects to increase our productivity. This will also include our plan to revitalise our commonages and communal lands,” Bulwane says.