SA Should Tread Carefully On Land Issue

FOOD security in Southern Africa is a subject of ever growing importance due to rapid population increases and urbanisation which have created an escalated demand.

 

With these facts in mind, the agricultural ministries of Southern African states should be making serious studies of land use to determine the best way to produce food without destroying the natural resources of their countries.

It seems governments in the region are discarding proven methods of large–scale production in favour of fragmentation with the object of placing as many people as possible on land regardless of the loss of production and destruction of natural resources.

The land reform programme in Zimbabwe provides an important lesson of how not to treat the agricultural potential of a country.

In Zimbabwe A1 farmers have no security of tenure, they operate under permit system on totally unsustainable plots dependent on handouts from the state.

A2 farmers, many without experience or knowledge of agriculture, occupy the larger potentially viable units and many are struggling to survive in spite of massive subsidies from the government. They are also insecure as to tenure and boundaries.

Most of the irrigation schemes established by the evicted commercial farmers have fallen into disuse and the infrastructure has become derelict.

The net result has been a drastic reduction of all agricultural products and the collapse of the economy.

The ruling ANC party in South Africa which is intent on using the expropriation route to seize productive commercial farmland of the country should make an objective study of what has happened in Zimbabwe.

South Africa has centuries of agricultural knowledge and dozens of research stations to call upon in order to find the best way to produce on farms economically.

The proportion of suitable land for crop-growing in Southern Africa is small, by far the greater proportion is arid, unsuitable for fragmentation and suitable only for grazing, ie ranching, game farming or better still wild life conservancies which it is being put to good use.

If all the crop growing areas are to revert to subsistence agriculture with the object of placing as many people as possible on the land without regard to the consequences then the prognosis for the sub-continent is grim. Poverty and resource destruction will march hand in hand.

Zambia and Mozambique should be commended for re-introducing and encouraging large–scale agricultural production in their countries. South Africa must learn from Zimbabwe’s mistakes.

MD Wiggill

Harare.

lSouth Africa announced recently that it has withdrawn the proposed Expropriation Bill.