Smallholder farmers can be commercial but just at a small scale
Lessons from history could ensure black farmers benefit from a state support system that empowered white farmers in the previous century, write Johann Kirsten and Wandile Sihlobo
As Ben Cousins recently argued in Business Day, agriculture can be an important contributor to the creation of jobs in SA through a well-executed land reform programme. But then we need to do it right and learn from SA's history, which has a lot to offer.
However, our plans and ideas are sometimes confused by the concepts of “scale” and “commercial”. There is the unintended notion that commercial farming can only be large, capital-intensive agriculture. The truth is smallholder farmers can be commercial but just at a small ‘scale’. This reality is confirmed by Statistics SA data that shows that 45% of white commercial farmers have a gross farm income of less than R500,000. The current land reform discussion has raised a need for the establishment of black commercial farmers (at any scale), as a way to transform the commercial food production chain. Programmes to establish and settle farmers is not a new phenomenon in SA, although they were not targeted at black farmers in the ...