SACBC Justice and peace believes that it is time for the government and the private sector to invest at a massive scale in the small scale farmers in our rural areas. Our agricultural policy is grounded on the myth that the responsibility of feeding the country is vested in commercial farming. The investment in the national food system is then biased towards large scale commercial farming, excluding thousands of small scale farmers who put food on the table for millions of families in Southern Africa. The assumption also excludes the role that thousands of rural women play in the national food system.
It is time to invest in the small scale farming. To drive the advocacy point, various Catholic dioceses have set up projects on small scale farmers to demonstrate that, by supporting small scale farmers in a way that enables them to enjoy the right to food sovereignty, we can as a society help to produce enough food for the rural communities without damaging God’s gift of creation. For the food systems to grow in a way that benefits the rural poor, we need to change the way the world thinks about farming. Massive investment in small scale farming is needed to help to mend the broken food system.
The projects on small scale farming and cooperative farming are undertaken in the farms listed below. The description of each farm also shines light on the production-related challenges facing the small scale farmers and cooperatives in the context of land reforms.
Keilands Farm, as it is popularly known, is ˃ 1300 hectares. It is made up of 2 farms, namely Rocky Nook and Keilands. It was offered to the government to buy for the community that was already settled there. Once the government agreed, and there was clarity that the community was indeed going to receive ownership of the farm, development planning begun. As a result, 3 projects exist in this community. They are Ncedolwethu (Our Help) goat project, Masizakhe Crop Production project and a Soccer Club. Ncedolwethu was created to generate income for the project members, but also serve as a base for learning better livestock health and production management skills for the rest of the community. Masizakhe was to revive the agricultural scheme that was initially funded by a Catholic bishop through donor funding in the late 1990s. Lastly, the idea establishing a Soccer Club was to provide entertainment and prevention of crime.
Of these 3 projects, the goat one has had visible impact in terms of it being a base for learning. In the recent household survey conducted early in 2014 (February), there was remarkable increase in the number of goats, compared to 2011, when kid mortality rate and diseases were not properly managed.
Luckau Farm measures about 113 hectares, ± half of it is currently occupied by 13 households. In 2000, these households concluded some form of a sale agreement with the Diocese of Witbank. In terms of such agreement, the Diocese had requested payment of R5 000, and the community had settled this payment in full. The process to engage the government to assist with the survey and transfer costs was initiated by the Diocese on behalf of the 13 households. When the government failed to respond, this created doubt in people’s minds, and they did not proceed to use the land as they planned. Through the intervention by Justice and Peace, there is now clarity regarding the land, and thus people have once again committed themselves to establish sustainable home gardens. To this end, two community members have been to two organic farms, and interacted with the farmers. They are now preparing to attend a 5 days training on all aspects of organic farming.
Reichenau is the only farm that is now owned by the community. They planned and tried 3 projects previously, all of which experienced challenges. This farm happens to be a neighbour to various maize, potatoes and cattle farms. This influenced their choice of projects they could undertake on their farm. They first planted 8 hectares of potatoes, but due to limited knowledge of farming potatoes at that scale, they were hit by a hails storm and lost two thirds of the crop. The second project was maize and sunflower on 105 hectares. That too failed due to the problem of poor governance at the community level. The lesson that they have since learnt is that they did not fully understand the intricacies of commercial farming at the level they observed on their neighbouring farms yet. They have therefore expressed interest in livestock production, which they were already practicing on individual basis for a long time. To this end they have approached the Agribusiness Development Agency (ADA) to assist them with improvement of their livestock for beef. ADA is a special purpose vehicle established by various government departments, including Rural Development and Land Reform. It was established to revive and support land reform projects that had failed and were failing. They have also committed 2 members from the community to attend organic farming training and organise the interested community members to focus on this form of agriculture.
St. Joseph’s Mission Farm is linked to the Diocese of Dundee. Two projects are currently being implemented on the farms. The first is the community fruit garden that is already feeding several participating households. The second project is the beef cattle improvement project. They do this with the support of Agribusiness Development Agency.