Govt hails improvement on land reform

Land Reform

Land Reform

Pretoria – Government says in its Mid Term Review report, released on Friday, in overall at least 6.8 million hectares of land have been transferred to beneficiaries between 1994 and 2011, through its Land Acquisition and Redistribution Programme and the Land Restitution Programme.

This represents 27% of the target of transferring 24.5 million hectares by 2014.

The Mid-Term Review Report, which provides progress of the priorities of government, was released by Minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane in Pretoria on Friday.

It indicates that from 2009 to December 2011, about 823 300 hectares of land were acquired and allocated to 20 290 beneficiaries.

Authorities said this was an improvement over previous years, and “indicates that our systems are improving”.

In addition, 76 368 land claims relating to 2.9 million hectares of land under the Land Restitution Programme were settled. A total of 712 of these claims, for 292 995 hectares, were settled between 2009 and December 2011, against a target of 1 845 claims for the period.

But the report also points to some of the realities associated with the land issue in South Africa.

“The process of acquiring and distributing a particular piece of land is often lengthy, and this escalates the cost of redistribution because the former owner stops investing in the land. Many of the farms are therefore in a poor state of repair at the point of acquisition.”

In addition, says the report, there has often been a decline in productivity on the redistributed farms. This led to the adoption of a recapitalisation programme in November 2010.

The objectives of the recapitalisation programme include increasing food production, food security, the commercialisation of small farmers and creating employment opportunities.

Government said by December 2011, 595 farms were in the process of being rehabilitated. However, to date, the focus of rehabilitation has been on rebuilding infrastructure and there was a risk that, without adequate farmer support and development, the farms could again decline in future.

Also, some of the beneficiaries have indicated that the policy of allocating the land to them on a 99-year leasehold basis is an impediment for them to invest in the land, and that they would prefer to be given full ownership.

“However, this could result in beneficiaries selling the land. There is a need for this challenge to be investigated further to ascertain the degree to which it is limiting the success of the transferred farms,” notes the report.

Inadequate post-settlement support and the lack of suitable markets meant that few land reform beneficiaries were progressing into sustainable farming enterprises. Less than one in 20 land reform beneficiaries have benefited from either Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) grants or Micro-Agricultural Finance Institutions of South Africa (MAFISA) loans.

Officials also note that 11 000 new smallholder farmers have been established since 2009, out of a target of 50 000. Although support has been provided to both new and long-established farmers through programmes such as CASP, Letsema, the Recapitalisation and Development Programme and MAFISA, only a marginal number of 5 381 smallholders are involved in agribusinesses and a mere 3 910 are linked to markets.

“To achieve success, smallholder farmers require a comprehensive agribusiness support package, including favourable commodity pricing, access to finance, provision of technical expertise/mentorship and contracted markets.

“However, no convincing support package is yet in place; government initiatives tend to cause dependency, and the sector is struggling. Government should consider providing better incentives for commercial farmers who are willing and capable of mentoring smallholder farmers.

“More support is needed for farms in distress and additional incentives are needed for interventions to strengthen [existing] services and to encourage the adoption of new production and processing models that also conserve natural resources,” reads the report.

Investment in agriculture and agro-processing would be central to food security in South Africa, as farmers’ incomes and agricultural job creation are highly dependent on global economic conditions and global markets.

This, combined with challenges such as climate change and uncertainty around land reform, has resulted in a decrease in the number of commercial farmers, a decrease in total production levels, a higher volume of food imports and higher food prices.

The report suggests that this has discouraged new entrants into the sector, which prejudices its contribution to job creation. – BuaNews