Why land transferred to black farmers goes to wrack and ruin

What's the point of land reform when the farms in question soon become unproductive, according to a nonprofit in the sector.

Although more than eight million hectares of land have been transferred to black farmers in land claims, a large portion of this is unusable and no longer economically active.

Speaking to The Citizen, chief executive officer of Vumelane Advisory Trust Peter Setou said it was concerning that a large part of claimed land was not productive, leading to a huge challenge in land reform.

Vumelane is a non-profit organisation that assists beneficiaries of land reform to make land more productive. He said that by 2010, at least 90% of the transferred land was not usable.

“That is over one and a half times bigger than Switzerland. A substantial part of that hectarage is actually not productive.

“That is something we need to address to make sure we can make it productive,” he said. But for land to be productive, farmers immediately required post-settlement support from government.

However, there have been delays between the department of rural development and land reform as well as the department of agriculture, says senior manager and economist at African Farmers’ Association of South Africa Thamaga Malapane.

“It seems the two departments are not talking to each other because. after getting land, the farmers still have to wait. It is only three or four years later that they get post-settlement support, but the land or properties are already vandalised or rusty by then.

“Then they have to start from scratch to make it productive,” Malapane said.

A partnership between farmers and the private sector could be the quickest solution to addressing challenges in the land reform space, Setou said. Speaking of the land summit last week in Limpopo, he said the event showed there were various successful methods by the private sector.

“There is ample proof that the private sector is willing to play in this space. There is exciting evidence that the private sector is more than ready to play a role in successful land reform.

“South Africans are very optimistic. I am hopeful and confident we can deal with the challenges we face.”

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits