Podcast: Legal pitfalls can ruin great farming enterprises

Water licences and farm lease agreements can become tricky for up-and-coming farmers. We chat to agricultural lawyer Katlego Ngwane about the common pitfalls that can ruin great businesses

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Land, water, and compliance. These are the three key issues faced by new farmers, says Katlego Ngwane, an agricultural lawyer and founder of Katika Consulting, featured on this week’s Farmer’s Inside Track podcast.

Ngwane, also known as the “legal boeremeisie”, joins Food For Mzansi in episode 93 of its popular farmers’ podcast, now available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and YouTube.

“The first issue [new farmers face] is about land,” Ngwane says. “Many farmers just don’t have access to land or struggle to find land in order to farm, so that is one of the first issues they tend to have.

“Lack of land ownership often pushes new farmers into leasing land, which is in the ambit of contractual law. [New farmers need to ask] ‘What are the agreements that they’re making with the people they’re leasing land from?’, ‘Do the agreements make sense?’, and ‘Are they fair?’”

Another challenge new farmers face, says Ngwane, is that even in cases where they have access to land, they frequently find that the land has no water source. “South Africa is water-scarce, so there isn’t that much water to go around in terms of [the] agriculture industry and also obviously providing for South African citizens.”

Because water is regulated by law, and farming is a high water-use industry, potential farmers need to apply for multi-use licences with the government. “There is an act called the National Water Act 36 of 1998 and basically this act seeks to protect and conserve all water reserves in South Africa.”

Farmers need to know the numbers

Ngwane says new farmers have to plan ahead when they apply for multi-use licences. “The act is there to conserve water, so you can’t waste the water, and you can’t have an overabundance of use and especially unnecessary use.”

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A new farmer’s water planning therefore needs to map out the type of farming they’re going to do, and how much water it will use.

“One has to be very aware of the [water] needs of what they’re growing, and if they are in a position and in an area where they will get the amount of water from the government that they require. It’s a lot of preparation and [farmers need to] know the industry that they’re in.”

Another part of preparing to start a new farming operation is learning more about compliance in agriculture. Ngwane finds that new farmers are very often unaware of how regulated the agriculture industry is. “There’s a lot of bureaucracy to doing certain things, no matter what it is that you’re planting, or whatever it is that you’re breeding.”

Her advice for new farmers is simple.

“My biggest [piece of] advice when it comes to leasing or buying land would be really: Do your tests on the land that you are interested in. Make sure that your contracts, if you’re leasing, make sense. And if you’re buying land, make sure that you’re buying land in an area where you have access to water.”

ALSO READ: Meet agri-lawyer Katlego Ngwane, the ‘legal boeremeisie’

Other podcast highlights

This week’s Farmer’s Inside Track also has other highlights from the agricultural sector:

  • Future-focused farming: The future of farming is both promising and difficult. Dr Naudé Malan, founder of Izindaba Zokudla, tells us more about the characteristics needed to be a future agriculturalist, and Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA, gives us insight into the future of farming.  
  • Animal nutrition: Voermol’s Marí Bronkhorst chats to us about animal nutrition. She explains how adding liquid concentrate Korn Kandy to your animals’ feed can help them succeed.
  • Book of the week: Our book of the week is Atomic habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones by James Clear. The book gives us tips on how to get .% better every day.
  • Farmer’s tip of the week: Our farmer tip this week comes from Athenkosi Denga, a livestock auctioneer from the Eastern Cape.
  • #SoilSistas: This week’s #SoilSista, powered by Food for Mzansi and Corteva Agriscience, is livestock farmer Tika Maapola from Limpopo. This farmer has made many sacrifices on her journey to success.

How to listen to Farmer’s Inside Track 

Option 1: Click here to listen on Spotify (all mobile and other devices). 

Option 2: Click here to listen on any Apple device

Option 3: Click here to listen on Google Podcasts

Option 4: Just click “play” to listen right here on the browser.

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