Small farmers must be excited by finance minister Tito Mboweni’s budget speech. The minister indicated that the department of rural development & land reform will be allocating R3.7bn to assist emerging farmers who want land. This will ensure that we rekindle the class of black commercial farmers that was destroyed by the 1913 Natives Land Act.
We need to concentrate our efforts on the small farmers by investing more and offering better resources to support them. To achieve success, small farmers need a comprehensive agribusiness support package, including access to finance, the provision of technical expertise and contracted markets.
The department allocated additional funding for its land restitution programme. This will go a long way to redress people or communities that were dispossessed of property after June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws and practices. The budget will drive radical transformation for rural economic growth and the redistribution of land.
Africa’s growing population and the expanding middle class are creating a domestic market for food products that will be worth trillions of rand by 2030. But to tap into this opportunity for SA’s smallholder farmers, we need to stop thinking about them as subsistence growers and embrace their potential to generate income.
Today, most farmers produce a fraction of what their land can yield, mainly because they are not using improved seeds or fertilisers. One reason for their reluctance to purchase new seed is that most African farmers operate in an environment that always has them on the verge of destitution. More importantly, they rely on saved seeds because they know how they will perform. They cannot afford to gamble with the unknown.
We also need to encourage the youth to study agriculture and contribute to the economy, create job opportunities, fight poverty and malnutrition and, most importantly, ensure food security.