With over 20 years’ experience in farming, Sehularo Sehularo believes he can play a key role in reviving the agriculture sector in the Northern Cape. As coordinator of Saamtrek Saamwerk, a newly launched farmers’ organisation, he is set on helping farmers taste the fruit of success.
Sehularo tells Food For Mzansi it is important that farmers are organised to address their issues as a collective. Also, he believes government should be doing more to support farmers in his home province.
“We have problems of infrastructure that is hindering our members to do business properly. Roads need to be fixed. Water shortages, electricity bills and load shedding – these are some of the challenges that all spheres of government need to address,” he says.
Tiisetso Manoko: There is a big buzz about Saamtrek Saamwerk (“to rally and work together”). Let’s kick off with a bit more information about this organisation. What’s your outlook for the year ahead?
Sehularo Sehularo: Our aim is to reach out to as many farmers as possible. The organisation is still in the developing space, but we want to reach farmers in the far-flung areas of the Northern Cape.
We still have a lot to do. Awareness and education [about agriculture] will be our key activities this year. We will be encouraging our members to register with relevant authorities to qualify for government initiatives.
Information sharing is critical to enable a farmer to make it, whether a farmer has already been in the industry or is a beginner, knowledge is power. We do not want farmers failing because of a lack of knowledge on how to better their businesses.
What are the challenges that Saamtrek Saamwerk hopes government would address?
Our government needs to be on the ground. Farming or agriculture is not an office-based work. If government can really come down to the level of farmers and engage them, many challenges we have will really be dealt with.
Government must not “make” farmers but [instead] develop them. They must do away with supporting the same farmers every year or every two years. There is no exit plan for supported farmers.
The most important plea we have with government is that there is a shortage of extension officers and animal health technicians. Those are critical vacancies that need to be filled. I hope the MEC, Mase Manopole, will address this in her [upcoming] budget vote [speech].
Land redistribution and the expropriation of land without compensation is a hot topic, also in the Northern Cape…
Land should be given to committed farmers – not friends and family members This 30 year lease for land agreement does not assist farmers. It should be done away with and title deeds should be given. A sense of ownership will do justice to farmers.
So, what is Saamtrek Saamwerk doing to ensure that its members have access to the right information and access to market opportunities?
We have monthly farmers’ days where different role players are invited to come and share information. It is in these meetings that we hope senior government officials such as the premier, government and business leaders and the MEC will engage with farmers directly. Government wants us to be organised. When we do that, we are being given duck-and-dive responses. We are hopeful that this year we will have leaders in government addressing us.
What relationship does Saamtrek Saamwerk have with other organised agriculture?
For us, it is not about competing with any organisation, but to really speak with one voice as leaders so that we can have an industry that creates jobs and have a sustainable future. Agriculture is not a hobby, but a business that needs all hands on deck.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.