A South African farming community is taking it on themselves to aid local emerging farmers and communities to achieve commercial viability and self sustainability.
Commercial farmers and supporting partners launched the Harry Gwala Agri Organisation on 8 March in the Harry Gwala region in KZN. The non-profit organisation will serve as an umbrella group for projects to facilitate the sharing of farming resources. This includes the sharing of knowledge and equipment, and providing funding and training to assist emerging farmers in the region.
John Bredin, chairman of HGA, says transforming agriculture in South Africa will only succeed if commercial farmers share their knowledge, skills and experience.
“We realised that we can’t live on these islands of prosperity on the farms, surrounded by poverty,” Bredin told africanfarming.com.
“If we can uplift the rural economy in a sustainable way, everybody benefits. We want to help these communities and farmers grow their own food and take the step to commercialisation.”
Andy Buchan, president of KZN Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) added: “The solution to the issues confronting the agricultural sector rests with us, the people on the ground. The sustainability of these types of initiatives will rest on a genuine desire to be a catalyst in the transformation of lives – not only in agriculture. It needs to be built on relationships of trust over time, and not merely a motion of ticking the box or window dressing.”
Although land ownership in South Africa is a sensitive issue, Bredin says there is still much land available that is not yet productive. It is a resource which can be utilised by emerging farmers.
Bredin says the project will also aid South Africa’s struggling land reform programme and join government in its task to transform South African agriculture.
He says one of the reasons why land reform programmes failed in the past, is because of the lack of skills transferred to emerging farmers.
Acclaimed agricultural economist, Prof. JP Landman, reiterated this point.
“Agriculture in this country is strong and capable enough of carrying the process of land reform. But it cannot happen without skilled farmers. Farmers need to step up to the plate to help the transfer of land be a success,” he said.