Farmer Jane Malejane relies on a piece of tribal trust land in Motsane, a village hidden deep in the Drakensberg mountain range in the district of Sekhukhune in Limpopo to feed her family.
The village which is located along the banks of the Olifants river is revered as the home of small- scale subsistence and commercial farmers. It also enjoys an all year- round supply of fresh water from the Lepelle and natural springs from the hills.
Motsane, which during the last census in 2011 had just 1688 residents, is one of sparsely populated villages located along the Olifants in this spectacular gorge.
Malejane’s village folk farm sugar cane, potatoes, maize, peas, spinach, tomatoes, watermelon and other crops that help them make enough to feed their families. But with more support and access to more land they could compete with the big players in the market.
Minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development Thoko Didiza said the department has developed a land beneficiary selection policy to guide land allocation, producer support model, agriculture, agribusiness, poultry and sugar master plans to support the sector.
Didiza told a recent webinar on women producers that president Cyril Ramaphosa has highlighted agriculture as one of the sectors the country will prioritise in order to rebuild the economy. She said one of the key ingredients for this was the rapid release of agricultural state land.
She said while these were important milestones in terms of the work that had been done thus far, in engaging women in the agriculture and agribusiness sector she had established some challenges which included access to land.
“Women in the various sub sectors of agriculture have raised the challenges in accessing land either for leasing, acquisition or state land. This relates [to] prices that make it impossible to access,” she said.
Didiza said applications to access government leases on land took too long and that the allocation was perceived to favour male farmers.
“Government through its programmers has not strategically targeted land according to commodities for acquisition in order to be deliberate on improving participation of women in these sectors,” she said.
The Peace Table Grapes co-operative in Moganyaka village near Marble Hall in Limpopo also expressed a need to acquire more land in order to grow.
The women’s co-operative, which was set on 10 hectares of land, was making its mark in the tough sector, farming table grapes which they exported to markets in Europe, a fresh produce market in Tshwane and retail stores. However, they felt access to more land would help them grow and employ even more than the 42 staffers in their books.
Didiza added that some of the issues impacting on women farmers include financial services, mechanisation and a lack of statistical data of how many women were in the sector and in what commodities.
Didiza said the government had decided to release state land with 50 percent of that for women, training for beneficiaries and effective land reform through supporting those who had received the land.
She also said they will develop a targeted program for women farmers and entrepreneurs in the sector and allocate 40 percent procurement for women businesses.