Last week, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza announced that, within two weeks, the government will issue 700 000 hectares of underutilised or vacant state land to lease to emerging farmers. This is part of the government’s commitment towards land reform.
This development comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address on 13 February, in which he said there will be an acceleration of land redistribution, an expansion of agricultural production and transformation of the industry. This announcement adds to the 8.4-million hectares disbursed by the government between 1994 and 2018.
Currently, 37.9% of that land is being used commercially. Last year, while answering questions on land reform in the National Council of Provinces, Deputy President David Mabuza said the government was looking at 278 parcels of land, which would amount to almost 2.9-million hectares in total, for distribution.
Mabuza also highlighted the failure of government funding and support for emerging farmers. He said that, although the government already provides some financial support, farmers continue to fail because the support measures are not properly co-ordinated between the national and provincial levels.
In his newsletter this week, Ramaphosa said the government should ensure that land acquired for farming is used productively. “We must also ensure that farmers are supported along the road to sustainability and profitability. As part of this programme, beneficiaries will be trained in financial management and enterprise development”, Ramaphosa wrote.
The president believes this will solve the lack of access to financing farmers face and will enable emerging and small-scale farmers to tap into the commercial market. He added that the government will safeguard the allocated state land for farming purposes by making the leases non-transferable. Beneficiaries will sign a lease agreement for 30 years with the state and pay a rent consistent with the land value. Women and youth are expected to be prioritised.
The National Development Plan states that land reform will be key to unlocking the country’s economic growth and creating employment in the agricultural sector. This will be done by transferring agricultural land to black beneficiaries without distorting land markets or business confidence in the agri-business sector.
Ramaphosa said the broadening of access to land and increased farming opportunities would support job creation and enterprise development, and improve the market for food and agricultural goods and services.