Land plan:  SA is much closer to its target of transferring at least 30% of agricultural land from white to black ownership. Picture: FILE PICTURE
Land plan: SA is much closer to its target of transferring at least 30% of agricultural land from white to black ownership. Picture: FILE PICTURE

SA is much closer to its target of transferring at least 30% of agricultural land from white to black ownership, albeit three years after the initial deadline.

A report by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy released at the weekend says more than 20% (18-million hectares out of 82-million hectares) of the farmland has been transferred or financially compensated for.

In 1994, the government set a target of handing 30% of agricultural land to black recipients by 2014. However, the land reform programme has generally been tardy, which has created uncertainty in the agricultural sector, with some land owners holding back on investing in their properties.

The successful completion of SA’s land reform programme is necessary to ensure a stable and growing agricultural and rural economy, the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy says.

The National Development Plan, the government’s blueprint for eliminating poverty and reducing inequality, identifies agriculture as one of the critical sectors for economic development. It has the potential to create about 1-million jobs by 2030, but with the uncertainty around land, this target might not be reached, observers say.

Founded in 2004, the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy is a nonprofit organisation which aims to inform decision-making in the agrofood, fibre and beverage industries by providing independent research.

The authors of the report highlight that positive and inclusive agricultural growth is a prerequisite for successful transformation of the sector and positive growth can only occur through continued public and private sector investments.

"The successful completion of the land reform programme is necessary to address duality in the sector and to ensure a stable and growing agricultural and rural economy," they state.

Policy uncertainty and misalignment between various departments has been identified by a number of stakeholders as one of the main drivers hampering growth and transformation of the industry, the report notes.

There has been widespread concern that land reform has not been successful. However, the authors argue, there is little consensus on what actually constitutes successful land reform.

"By what metric would we be prepared to declare success, and over what period of time? These are important questions, because they influence the state of mind of prospective land reform beneficiaries and hence whether they will be willing to invest in, develop and nurture the long-term viability of the assets they obtain."

Furthermore, the authors point out, success cannot only be measured against the amount of land transferred. It should also be measured against the performance of the land in terms of production and what it implies for the beneficiaries in terms of jobs and wealth.

Agri SA senior economist Hamlet Hlomendlini said recently many farms that were previously productive were now lying fallow because of failed attempts by the state to adequately carry out land reform projects.

It was estimated that 70% to 90% of land reform projects had failed or were struggling with inadequate support.

Lack of skills was one of the contributing factors to the failures, said Hlomendlini.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

Please sign in or register to comment.