Black farmers in South Africa were severely undermined by apartheid practices as the apartheid government sought to ensure cheap migrant labour while reducing the competition for white farmers. This impacted on farmer organisation, the provision of research and support services, and undermined collaborative activity. In the current period in South Africa, there has been a further decline in support to farmers and limited extension support from government and other players. This continues to constrain the development of black farmers.
Farmers in the Amatole District Municipality of the Eastern Cape are amongst the most poor. Research conducted by the Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape confirms that:
- One third of Eastern Cape households are involved in home production for home consumption (HPHC);
- In the Amatole District Municipality, about 17% of the households are strictly involved in agriculture, while 40% of the households are broadly involved in agriculture;
- The research shows that agricultural households are also generally worse off than those not involved in agriculture;
- Amatole has a poverty rate of 67.7%;
- 49.8% of the population living below the poverty line. The poverty in the area therefore is higher than the national average;
- Finally, poverty is also clearly a rural phenomenon, with rural poverty estimated at 82.2% compared to 42.1% in urban areas. The poverty rate is also much higher among agricultural households (80.3%) than non-agricultural households (65 %).
It is our view that large-scale land access and appropriate land use has the potential to contribute to poverty eradication and to increase food security, but this potential will only be realised if such a strategy forms part of a restructured rural economy. Isolated ad-hoc projects that are not integrated and supported by the local economy have little chance of achieving long-term success. Poor farmers need access to affordable transport, abattoirs, nurseries, grain silos, grinding machines and other small industries that can add value to agricultural production. Villages need to be linked to one another by roads to facilitate village-to-village marketing. Access to credit and affordable insurance is urgently required. All of this requires a vision and a long-term strategy.
Government trends: hampering, not helping
- It has become a trend in this province for government to promote the production of cash crops like cotton, chilli, paprika etc. This approach has the potential not only to undermine food security but also results in unsustainable projects that do not boost the local economy and improve the livelihood of the rural poor.
- The biggest flaw in current government strategies is that they offer ‘take it or leave it’ solutions to the poor. When ill-thought through initiatives are foisted on the poor it removes the responsibility from them, making it easy to externalise the problems that arise. These have a negative impact on any future rural development processes and initiatives, no matter how sound these may be.
- The latter happens in an environment where no appropriate rural development strategy exists. The Rural Poor’s active participation in local governance is still undermined and there is an escalation of corruption and squandering of resources by government officials and poor service delivery. This places more pressure on civil society to organise people’s organisation and movements for real transformation and change.
The engagement with farmers and farmer associations has ensured that we meet our goals of sharing information, building capacity and strengthening skills. Through our field visits we have conducted our own assessment on the quality and quantity of production as well as the food pattern in comparison with previous years. There has been a drastic improvement in quality and quantity of produce and this has had a positive effect on food security. The Department of Agriculture has been engaged in a number of occasions in different municipalities to support the farmers. The following achievements in relation to Land Use can be reported on:
- Amatole District - The organisation has embarked on organising information sessions on Land and Agrarian Reforms, Food Security and the promotion of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Amatole District Municipality. Flowing from the campaign of the previous quarter, we were able to conduct these sessions in the remaining two municipalities;
- Nxarhuni – Our members participated in an Information Day on the theme Animal Production and Diseases and Pests Control organised by the Department of Agriculture. Peelton and Nxarhuni produce has increased and that has had an impact in the improvement in food security and income received by the affected farmers association;
- Our collaboration with the Heifer Project and the Department of Agriculture Stock Improvement Programme has yielded positive results in the Sigxothindlala Project. We have also lobbied the Department of Agriculture for material support to the land use farmers and some farmers in Nowawe have received a tractor.
- Capacity Building - As part of the Capacity Building Programme to enhance the skills and knowledge base of Ilizwi Lamafama Farmers Union, the organisation organised an exposure visit for eight farmers and two staff members to Barry Dale and other areas in Cape Town. This venture enabled farmers to learn and share their experiences with farmers elsewhere;
- Peelton - Vulindlela Farmers Association in the Imidange area received support for the tilling of 50 hectors for maize production. In Majali, Sigxothindlala is harvesting maize from a 100 hector land and sales of produce have already taken place. Local people purchase the production from the project. The price of a 50kg bag of maize is R120 -00 and is affordable to the market. Thembalethu project in Nkqonkqweni village harvested maize from its 15 hectors of land. Sivukile Farmers Association in Sixekweni harvested maize from its 2ha land. For this project, produce is utilized for consumption. Sinovuyo project at Undertrain harvested its last potato produce and are looking forward to lobby the extension office to allocate them an additional land;
- Building socio-economic and political understanding - Staff and community leaders were sent to Cape Town to attend a food security workshop and media facilitated by the Alternative Development and Information Centre (AIDC). The workshop dealt with issues of food insecurity in South Africa and challenges faced by the emerging farmers and the fishing communities;
- Seed banking - Zingisa constantly conducts local sessions on the importance of keeping local indigenous seeds and establishment of seeds bank for future production processes. We have established a nursery in Nowawe in an attempt to ensure that the local emerging farmers are supported with seedlings locally and cheaply. In August a team of farmers attended a Unity Dialogue held in Grahamstown where they learnt about organic farming, importance of using indigenous seeds and establishing seed banks.
BUILDING THE CAPACITY OF COMMUNITY INSTITUTIONS
The women forums have been built in four zones and need to be strengthened. A workshop was conducted for the Savings and Credit Women’s Group on how Savings and Credit Clubs are managed and operated. The Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism was also invited to make a presentation on this matter. On the Women’s Day (9th August) we organised a seminar on women rights and the role of women in a changing society. Various issues were raised women's relations with the traditional authorities and how their rights are violated to women and child abuse in all forms. A seminar was held in Dimbaza and dealt with local issues affecting women, developing strategies of taking women struggles forward and strengthening women’s organisations.
EXCHANGES AND EXPOSURE VISITS
The year under review allowed for members and leadership to embark on learning and exchange visits to different agricultural projects and institutions. These visits gave members the opportunity to reflect on their own agricultural experiences and bring back learnings to the local community.
Abalimi basekhaya Project
The project is working with a number of crop production projects in Phillippi. A formal contract was signed between Abalimi base - Philippi and these different projects. The projects are mainly producers and they have to conform to practices of organic farming as stipulated in the contract. Abalimi base-Phillippi will then organize local markets for the local producers on an agreed fee. Both Abalimi and the local producers are affiliated to a local Organic Farming Association that ensures that the produce planted by the local producers is organic.
Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch
The institute is located within an area where the local residents are exposed to extreme poverty and are unemployed. Within the institution there are pieces of land where organic farming is practiced. The local communities are assisted in the production processes and the inputs are supplied by the institute. The produce and profits made are benefiting the local residents.
Barry Dale Farmers Exposure Visit
The emerging farmers in this area are the members of Mawubuye Land Rights Forum. Many of them receive support from the Department of Agriculture. A nursery operating on leased land is managed by farmers affiliated to Mawubuye Land Rights. However without the necessary mentoring and monitoring this nursery may not survive.
We then visited a project in Suurbraak, Swellendam with a size of approximately 12ha with four farmers in crop production. These farmers are successfully producing with conventional methods. They have sufficiently marketed their project and their produce is sold locally without any fundamental problems.
In Barry Dale we also saw a promising piggery project with well-established structure that is highly supported by the Department of Agriculture with regular monitoring and mentoring by the Agricultural Extension Officer. The project is owned by individual farmers that own and manage but buy as a collective when purchasing feed.
The Stock Farmers
There is the potential for high productivity for stock farming among emerging farmers however the Western Cape government expenditure focuses on the white-owned commercial farmers who produce for the external market. These independent stock farmers are most at risk without the necessary support.
Ilizwi Lamafama revisited the issue of learning farms and the farmers union felt that the learning farm is more relevant in the area where Ilizwi operates. The idea was that the farm should be accessed through the Pro-active Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAAS) and that the farm should be owned and managed by Ilizwi Lamafama. Objectively this farm has to be accessed for crop production and stock farming and profits should be made from the produce for the sustainability of Ilizwi Lamafama. The learnings can be replicated to the broader farming community in order to enhance the skills and the knowledge of poor farmers.
Vigorous attempts have been made in terms of finding a farm to purchase unfortunately the farm valuation was unacceptable and the deals were withdrawn. This situation demands that we explore other means of land acquisition as Ilizwi Lamafama and Zingisa do not have funds to buy land.
Despite the fact that PLAAS is envisaged to be a proactive strategy the beneficiaries had to undergo the same processes as stipulated in Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development Programme which causes serious challenges for the poor landless communities in accessing land. Our partnership with BRC in land restitution cases aims to further our land struggles using both legal and community mobilising campaigns. There are also on-going local engagements with the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development.
ENGAGING LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SERVICE DELIVERY
During the year under review Zingisa organised consultative meetings with communities and local government forums to identify the support needed to assist the forums in mobilising communities. During these meetings communities have been able to inform us of the kind of support they require. Two highlights from these engagements include supporting the community to make a submission supporting the repealing of the Black Authorities Act, and helping the Peelton community to engage the ward councillor on housing and sanitation issues.
The organisation also focused on capacitating structures, volunteers and task teams who will lead and drive the processes, as well as mobilising stakeholders who will support and implement the Integrated Community Plan. The period under review focused on the actual collection of the data required that will inform the production of the Integrated Development Plan.
- Communities are unaware of assets they have and their importance to their own development;
- The process has evoked very critical discussions of some natural assets used by private companies and communities without benefiting;
- The low community skills base on technical and financial and project management needs to be enhanced;
- The importance of building social assets and alliances to realise our broader objective;
- There is no way that we can achieve our dreams without building a strong voice to lobby government to participate actively through its departments.
COLLABORATION WITH OTHER ORGANISATIONS
Zingisa strengthened its collaboration with other organisations in the delivery of programmes, in research and in land-access struggles. We collaborated with the Masifunde Development Trust in Grahamstown and the TCOE National Office and conducted in-depth research on government food security programmes and the use of Genetically Modified Seeds and their impact to the rural poor.
Border Rural Committee organised a protest march and as part of both Ilizwi and Zingisa furthering the struggles of land access, the organisations participated in calling for re-opening the date for land restitution.
Zingisa Education Project also participated in the struggles spearheaded by Masifunde Development Trust to speed up service delivery in the Ngqushwa Makana Municipality. The march was attended by a variety of people’s organisations represented by 350 delegates who presented the memorandum.
NETWORKING AND PARTNERSHIPS BUILDING
There is a continued and cautious effort to build partnerships and networks which can develop a strong lobbying and advocacy voice, and strategy. The latter is also important to harness resources, avoid duplication and share experiences and skills. We worked closely with the Eastern Cape NGO Coalition, Fort Cox and SAfeAGE especially on issues of use of genetically modified organisms and the environment.
Irrespective of all the challenges that are facing the organisation with regards to skills gaps and the resources to pursue the tasks ahead, a strong voice of the emerging farmers is growing with a vision to challenge the government on issues of rights and access to resources for the betterment of rural people’s livelihood. Government departments are also acknowledging the presence of the farming and rural formations and in some instances farmers unions have been invited to participate in strategic planning forums. We also see more space for expanding and organising beyond the outreached areas.