Podcast: Legal pitfalls can ruin great farming enterprises

This week’s podcast features (from left) Relobohile Selete, Katlego Ngwane, Naude Malan, Christo van der Rheede, and Athenkosi Denga. Photos: Supplied/Food for Mzansi.

This week’s podcast features (from left) Relobohile Selete, Katlego Ngwane, Naudé Malan, Christo van der Rheede and Athenkosi Denga. Photos: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

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.”

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:

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