Black farmers plead: ‘Stop calling us emerging farmers’

Sinelizwi Fakade, a rural Eastern Cape farmer. Photo: Supplied

Sinelizwi Fakade, a commercial grain farmer near Ugie in the Eastern Cape. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Sinelizwi Fakade has not had it easy commercialising in the farming sector. He highlights the barriers to entry for new farmers. Photo: Supplied.

Farmer and farming development leader Sinelizwi Fakade says black farmers have had enough of being treated like the forgotten child of South African agriculture. They have a wealth of potential that deserves to be recognised and invested in by government and the rest of the sector, he argues.

“Emerging black farmer” is just another nice title to describe South Africa’s forgotten child. You get mentioned at family gatherings, but no one really involves you in major decisions concerning the future of the clan.

No matter how hard black farmers try to show their stripes and impress the elders, people will always treat them like the voiceless charity case who needs handouts to survive. 

It has come to a point where some of us dislike the title of emerging black farmer, because in fact we are not emerging. Nothing about us or our understating of the value of the land on which we labour is new. 

We have always been here.

Our story is that of the young, gifted and black farmers who is driven by a passion for agriculture instilled in us by our forebears. After all these years, many of us have grown weary of begging for doors to be opened and have had to find alternative ways to seek opportunities so that we can participate in the commercial agricultural value chain. 

I listened as once again President Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned helping the emerging black farmer in his 2021 State of the Nation Address with no real solution or clear indication of where we fit in the bigger picture of this country’s economy. 

Meaningful transformation

According to the latest information from Statistics SA’s household survey more than 75,6% of households that were involved in agriculture did this as a way of supplementing food sources. Amongst those who are involved in subsistence farming there is untapped talent that needs a push towards the right direction.

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Government needs to invest on the development of the black farmer to help bring out this hidden talent from the shadows.

We need to stop treating black farmers as the forgotten child but rather as an important stakeholder in the country’s mission to alleviate poverty and inequality. The black rural farmer is in a position to share grassroots insights with government that can add value while helping us to develop sound policy. 

This is what true transformation and development means. It is the only way we can achieve agricultural production on one million hectares of land by the year 2030 as envisioned in the National Development Plan. 

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Those of us who have managed to build lucrative farming operations despite the difficulties demand that the playing field be opened to more people. 

We hope to see a better financial investment into agriculture. The covid-19 pandemic has tested us as a nation, widening the existing deep socio-economic divide we have faced over the years. 

Our story is that of the young, gifted and black farmer who is driven by a passion for agriculture instilled in us by our forebears.

The country’s unemployment rate has increased, meaning that more families are facing food insecurity. Meanwhile agriculture has proven to be resilient, showing growth despite these trying times. It is only fair that more funds are invested in a sector that has shown growth potential. 

‘Support us or leave us’

Our vision for a sustainable future involves a South Africa where talented black farmers are identified and given the support they deserve to grow even further. This vision involves including more women and youth in commercial farming to ensure that we achieve meaningful transformation. 

Black farmers no longer want to be spoken about, we want to be consulted on policy and decisions that concern the development of the country. We have been working hard and eagerly pursuing a dream that was instilled in us by those who came before us. 

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