Black farmers are set to benefit from government’s programme to release state owned land amounting to over 700 000 hectares. Minister of agriculture, rural development and land reform Thoko Didiza warned however that this land would be granted to farmers who were willing to undergo mandatory training and not ‘cellphone farmers’ who would only visit the farms to admire their new assets.
A Census of Commercial Agriculture report released by Statistics South Africa in March noted that the total income for the commercial agriculture industry in 2017 was R332,8 billion, which was higher than the R85,9 billion recorded for 2007. In 2017, the major contributor to total income was livestock farming (R120,8 billion or 36,2%), followed by mixed farming (R95,0 billion or 28,6%) and horticulture (R65,7 billion or 19,8%).
In October Didiza announced the government’s intention to release 529 000ha of land which was earmarked for a land reform programme which was set to empower black farmers from previously disadvantaged communities.
The move could help pave the way for black farmers struggling to access loans from financial institutions to purchase land.
This week Didiza announced that state owned land amounting to 700,000ha would be made available to black farmers on a 30-year leasehold. The minister said over 500 applications have been received so far and the offer for each individual, group or cooperatives is a 30 year leasehold with the option to buy for successful applications.
Some of the land in question is occupied by communities and Didiza has stated that these occupants will be prioritized when the roll out of the program begins.
“The land enquiry process is about establishing how certain people got access to that state owned land, what their status is and whether they would be formal leasehold agreements to continue living and working on those lands,” she said.
“It is important to emphasise that the main purpose of this process is not to destabilise farmers who have been farming and producing in farms in the past, but to put in place a state land administration and management system that ensures the security of land tenure, stability and provides an opportunity for sustainable food security and economic growth,” she said.
The application process, which is open to individuals, groups or cooperatives from previously disadvantaged communities who are interested in farming, is on-going and will close on 15 November 2020.
Applications can be made on the department’s website or be made physically by getting the application form and submitting all other necessary documents at a provincial or district department of Agriculture, land reform and rural development office.
The programme, which has already received over 5 000 applications, is set to run in all provinces except Gauteng and the Western Cape, where no state land is currently available. Didiza also announced that the much anticipated land reform bill has been tabled to parliament and was the beginning of president Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise to ensure that the land agenda is prioritized by the government. “We are pleased that the Expropriation Bill has finally been tabled in parliament. This important Bill will ensure alignment with the Constitution as well as creating a clear framework on how expropriation for public purpose and public interest will be undertaken,” she said.
Didiza said it is important that the country familiarise itself with this legislation and make inputs to the parliamentary process as law makers craft the legislation that will become part of our legal framework.
She reiterated that this was a move supported by her department as the fair allocation of land would work towards ensuring the country’s sustained food security and economic development. – Mukurukuru Media.