Mathews Phosa talks land reform
09:44 (GMT+2), Fri , 09 September 2016
Dr Mathews Phosa.

Land reform and BEE cannot be wished away and we have to, to some extent, come to accept it. Dr Mathews Phosa, former Mpumalanga premier and leading politician spoke about the importance of agriculture as a development tool at a Limpopo Agriculture Indaba at Modimolle last week.

He said rural and community development should be encouraged with an emphasis on knowledge transfer and empowerment of members of the community so they could pass on skills and take control of their future sooner rather than later.

Phosa is also chairman of the Mbombela-based community agricultural development organisation, Mobile Agricultural Skills Development and Training (Masdt).

“If we can leave the emotion out of it and think about the development of our agricultural communities as a challenge, an investment in the future of our country, and as an excellent business opportunity, we will be able to move forward much faster.

“Many studies have been done on the subject of farming as a vehicle to develop rural communities. In essence, this means increased productivity by using sustainable practices and with the support and help of grantees and partners.

“In recent years much has been achieved in this regard, especially where industries started working together such as in the sugar, tobacco, maize and wool industries, to mention a few. 

“We have learned from an economic development project in some of the rural areas in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West provinces by British American Tobacco (BAT) in collaboration with Masdt that community development with agriculture, as driving force, can be achieved after the following barriers have been bridged:
“There are two types of ownership for developing farmers, namely privately owned land, and land owned by the communities for which the farmer must obtain a ‘permission to occupy’ or PTO letter from the tribal authorities. Each of these requires a different approach.

“Farmers operate as individuals, as members of cooperatives or close corporations, beneficiaries of trusts and in some cases as shareholders of private companies. Each of these entities creates different challenges to overcome. We have found that where a group of owners lacks a strong leader, the decision-making process is slow and in-fighting among members occurs,” Phosa said. Literacy among developing farmers is low and requires special attention during formal training processes.

Other crusial points were raised at the indaba. Not all farmers understand English and provision must be made to accommodate them.

In some instances there are serious shortcomings that hamper effective production, such as a lack of infrastructure on the farm as well as a lack of machines and implements, basic tools and equipment, transport and supply facilities and insufficient training facilities. 

Effective development is hampered by a lack of trust. Trust must be earned over time and includes issues such as honesty, openness, respect and commitment. Development is doomed to fail if parties fail to build trusting relationships. 

It is important to understand cultural differences in rural areas and to respect and accommodate these differences as an integral part of the development management plan.

Managing marketing and finances are the biggest challenges in rural agricultural development. Even before production starts, suitable markets must be found and a marketing strategy must be in place.When money is received it often happens that instead of it being viewed as an incentive or reward for hard work, infighting occurs among members and they express discontent and dissatisfaction. This happens mainly because they do not understand the business cycle of commercial farming. 

It is easy to move small quantities of produce for short distances, but if we want to establish commercial farmers in remote areas, logistics become a huge barrier and this needs to be addressed too. The following are prerequisites to be involved successfully: There must be a clearly defined objective based on a specific demand in the market. 


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