Minister gives farmers five years to get it right
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti on Friday urged black farmers who received land through the government's various redistribution and restitution programmes to enter into a formal performance contract with the state in order to obtain resources and expert advice to help them become successful farmers.
With the contract, the state wanted farmers to show commitment to its objective of ensuring national food security and to respect its strict production discipline requirements. This was being done in a bid to reduce the number of unproductive and dysfunctional farms in the country.
Mr Nkwinti was addressing a two-day recapitalisation and development evaluation workshop in Boksburg, where he explained the terms and conditions of the contracts. He said the government had an obligation to guarantee national food security to all South Africans and therefore could not afford to give free agricultural land to people who wanted to do farming only as a weekend hobby without a meaningful contribution to the overall agricultural output.
Mr Nkwinti said the state would not hesitate to take away a farm and give it to another deserving entrepreneur if, after five years under the recapitalisation programme where farming equipment, training and mentorship were provided, the farmer failed or proved to be uncommitted. The minister said that more than R3bn had been "wasted" by the state on farms that ended up dysfunctional.
The contract, therefore, constituted a binding performance relationship between the beneficiary farmer who got a farm under the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) and Mr Nkwinti' s department so that they stayed productive or would lose the farm.
"We all have to deliver and the contract is one tool for the state to measure the success or failure of the programme and to ensure farmers also deliver on their side of the bargain," he said.
Explaining the contracts, he said the state had put on hold rental payments for those who got land under PLAS. Once the five-year term ended, and they had proved themselves, the rental and payment of debts such as loans would start.
He said the government would no longer intervene or help people who benefited from the restitution process after five years. It would be unfortunate if they completely failed despite the strategic intervention to help them grow as farmers. The recapitalisation programme would also begin to include people who had bought farms through their own means but required government assistance.
To determine the success or failure of the programme so far, Mr Nkwinti had ordered that a sample study be done. Ntsiki Mashiya, deputy director-general for support services, said the study was done during the coldest weekend in SA and some projects were inaccessible due to unfavourable conditions, such as fire in Limpopo and snow in the Western Cape.
However, at least 89 projects from eight provinces of the 640 recapitalisation projects were visited, representing 14% of the projects. The study found that at least 84% of the projects were now productive, at least 56% of them contributed to income generation, and that all the projects had created a total of 1,770 jobs and had improved the livelihood of beneficiaries.
Source: Business Day
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