Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza has honoured the late Afasa president, Dr Vuyo Mahlati, at a Women’s Day webinar held in partnership with Food For Mzansi and the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).
Addressing more than 500 farmers, Didiza said Mahlati advocated for women’s access to land and for the transformation of agricultural financial support systems for women.
Mahlati died in October last year following aged 55.
“She understood the integrated nature of agriculture and was resilient in her quest for the transformation of food systems and the agricultural value chain,” Didiza said.
Mahlati served as the chairperson of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s land reform and agriculture advisory panel.
Also, she was a member of Mzansi’s National Planning Commission, and the owner of Africa’s first indigenous wool processing plant in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape.
Didiza urged a new generation of agriculturists to also break down barriers facing women in the sector.
She cited various current constraints, including access to affordable financial services and production credit, inadequate extension and advisory services, access to markets, digitisation, and access to tools of the trade.
Clear targets for women upliftment
The minister declared that the target of agricultural land to be allocated to women was 50% of the total state allotment. Some would benefit through land released to communities that they’ve utilised for years, affirming their legal rights to use was now imperative.
In her keynote address, Didiza acknowledged the power of women in transforming socio-economic conditions and reflecting on the promulgation of the Native Land Act of 1913, where women waged struggle against land dispossession.
Meanwhile, a hot topic of discussion during Didiza’s webinar was land redistribution. Also, the Beneficiary Selection and Land Allocation Policy (BSLAP) that was developed and adopted by government in December 2020 was extensively discussed.
The minister underscored progress of the implementation of the BSLAP. She said, “Of the 700 000 hectares of land released by the state last year, 53 000 hectares, which equates to 78 farms, was released to 217 women beneficiaries.
“We want to continue growing these numbers because women remain the bedrock of strengthening food systems at local level.”
Gloria Mosito, the manager responsible for BSLAP in Didiza’s department, acknowledged that there was still plenty of work to be done.
“After nearly two decades of land reform policies and efforts that were instituted after 1994, there is still inequity of land ownership leaving a huge impact and creating challenges in land redistribution and the exclusion of women in participating in sustainable agriculture, living in unsustainable human settlement without sufficient livelihood resources,” she said.
She referenced the final report by Ramaphosa’s advisory panel, which Mahlati lead.
This read, “A more systematic approach is needed to redress and correct the ills within a democratic dispensation … [and that] the vast majority of South Africans are eligible for land reform, but few are provided with actual access to land.”
In her presentation underpinned by the key principles of this report, Mosito mapped out the policy on eligible beneficiaries and what they were eligible to receive.
“Policy proposes 50% allocation of agricultural farming land under the redistribution programme to smallholder farmers, broken down as 50% to women, 40% to youth, 10% to people living with a disability.
“Women, who either have basic farming skills or demonstrate a willingness to acquire such skills, women-headed households with no or very limited access to land, even for subsistence production, shall be given access to land for the advancement of women,” she explained.
Land applications system
Mosito added that the point was not to simply allocate land and walk away, but rather to graduate and assist the farmer to produce at a level which matches the full potential of the land.
“Through graduate and skilled development programmes, our aim is to help the women grow from being a small scale famer to a commercial farmer,” she pledged, adding that “land is advertised through print media and regional radio stations in order to reach as many people as possible and ensure transparency and equitable public process to eradicate any form of fraud and nepotism.”
An online land offer and applications system is being finalised, which will enable landowners willing to make land available or donate land for land reform purposes.
A follow-up webinar on how women can strengthen the food systems nationally and globally will take place on Monday, 16 August 2021.