Implementation and policy certainty. That is what farmers working the land say they want from government. This, after the national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development recently released its performance plan for the year ahead, which included an impressive policy checklist.
The department describes its annual performance plan as “a clear and practical implementation plan outlining what the department will undertake in the next year”. But in the end, farmers say, the true test of success will lie in results.
“We are at a point where there is a need for action. Implementation has been something that the government has failed in on various policies,” says Saamtrek Saamwerk Northern Cape coordinator Sehularo Sehularo.
“We see [the policies]. They are good on paper,” he tells Food For Mzansi and adds that officials need to get on the ground and implement them. “There really is no time for workshops and endless summits. Action is needed, and it is needed now. The country needs to go forward.”
Sehularo also cautions government not to exclude the private sector while redefining policies, and add that collaboration is critical for growth in the sector. “Government must not isolate the private sector. We need partnerships [and] timeframes of implementation. We cannot sing the same tunes all the time.
“We know what needs to be done; let us do that. We have challenges with infrastructure; let us fix that. We have challenges with stock theft; let us intensify our fight on that. People want land; let us give people land.”
‘Keeping farmers happy is really simple’
According to Free State farmer Phaladi Matsole, “Plans need to translate into farmer development and growth. If that is not the case, [the plans] are all in vain because what is on paper, needs to be on the ground.”
State infrastructure should also be a priority for farmers’ sake, Matsole believes, as this will ensure that producer communities remain active and the country remains food secure. “Ensuring that farmers are happy, really starts with small things: fixing our roads, sorting out the electricity issue, dealing with crime…”
Ralph Cloete from the Richtersveld Communal Property Association (CPA) says policy around communal farming needs to address the challenges faced by the CPAs in the country.
Part of government’s performance plan is to introduce the Communal Land Tenure position paper which will lay the groundwork for “democratic and inclusive communal land administration as guided by the Constitution”.
“The communal property associations in most places are not in good standing,” says Cloete. “We hope the new policy that will come into place will address the endless fighting that has engulfed the CPAs and make them ungovernable.
“We cannot afford situations where institutions or organisations are formed but do not really do what they are meant to do.”
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