Beneficiaries of the land reform programme share how despite challenges they have bucked the trend
From left Chief Barrington Mabuela Bela-Bela CPA Secretary_Andries Mabuela_Ms Jarita Mabula CPA Chair and Peter Setou Vumelana CEO1
20 October 2020: Land Reform – Land reform beneficiaries can contribute meaningfully to food security through partnerships and a multi-stakeholder-driven approach to land reform, so say land reform beneficiaries, together with non-profit organisation Vumelana Advisory Fund.
According to Vumelana, community-private partnerships provide opportunities for land reform beneficiary communities to acquire skills, access to markets and funding from investors, where partnerships are well facilitated to ensure benefits for both the community and investor. Since the democratically elected government in the new political dispensation started the land reform programme to restore land taken forcibly from communities by the apartheid regime, the process has been marred by lacklustre progress and anecdotal reports of transferred land being left idle and ultimately rendered unproductive.
The Bela Bela CPA (Limpopo) and Barokologadi CPA (North West), both who are past winners of the Vumelana Good Governance Award, shared their experiences.
Bela Bela CPA
The Bela Bela CPA manages about 6 500 hectares of land that is primarily used for eco-tourism, wildlife conservation, cattle rearing, crop and poultry farming. The CPA owns about 120 000 birds, which are used for egg and meat production. About 110 000 eggs are produced daily. The community further manages 350 heads of cattle and 121 sheep. Cattle are sold at auction.
Chief Barrington Mabuela, CEO of the Bela Bela CPA shared the following insights:
“We have seen the impact of private investors in our business operations. In 2019, AFGRI helped us with the purchase of chicken feed. The SAB constructed a borehole for the egg business.
“When our strategic partner Dr Dirk Snyman died, we formed a relationship with Paul Dale from Eggsperts, which has significantly contributed to the growth of our egg business.”
Chief Mabuela notes, “While the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a considerable toll on the livelihoods and food production of rural people, land reform beneficiaries can contribute significantly towards food production if they are supported to conclude partnership agreements with private investors.”
He noted that at the moment food production is at risk due to disrupted access to inputs, labour, services and markets. This demands a change in the mindset of land reform beneficiaries and requires them to stop fighting over positions and come up with ideas that will ensure productive utilisation of land and will produce food either commercially on a big scale, individually, or collectively as CPAs.
“This could be possible if beneficiaries of land reform partner with private commercial farmers who will impart skills and knowledge to produce food on a much greater scale to ensure that our country is food secure,” argues Chief Mabuela.
Looking ahead, Mabuela highlights that lack of policy certainty and the political will to drive the land reform programme, coupled with the high levels of corruption among government officials, remain some of the biggest hurdles to a successful land reform programme. He says that beneficiary communities desperately require post settlement support to sustain the productivity of the restored land.
Sharing insights about experiences from the Barokologadi CPA, Amos Setou, General Manager of the Barokologadi CPA, said, “Land reform beneficiaries should participate in projects that contribute to food security, hence the Barokologadi CPA formed cooperatives that serve as special purpose vehicles that develop and manage bankable projects.” He points out that in 2009, eight (8) Barokologadi cooperatives were able to raise over R400 000, which was utilised to establish the first small stock project on their restored land.
“This project attracted the investment of R1.7 million from the National Development Agency (NDA), which was used to start the CPA’s cattle project. This was followed by the recapitalisation investment of R10 million from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, which was used for water reticulation, fencing, building internal roads, installing electricity, renovating farmhouses as well as boosting the cattle project and purchasing farm management equipment such as tractors and tipper trailers,” says Setou.
He adds that the long-term R140 million partnership that the Barokologadi CPA signed with Elephants Rhinos and People Conservation (ERP) for ecotourism projects on the land has enabled the latter to donate food parcels to the tune of R700 000 to over 1 000 households from the seven surrounding villages, following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Over 26 000 hectares of land was restored to the Barokologadi community as part of government’s land restitution programme. Over 16 000 hectares of this land is part of the Madikwe Game Reserve. The CPA represents more than 3 000 beneficiary households who are owners of this land.
Setou adds: “From our experiences, we’ve found that land reform beneficiaries cannot only rely on government officials for delivery. A well planned and all-inclusive process must be in place within the community. The CPA should make use of all the available resources and skills from within the community. These resources should be enough to sustain challenges like court battles, fights with destructive interest or concerned groups, and at times corrupt government officials, as well as constantly keeping the beneficiaries motivated.
“Commitment and active participation in succession planning is vital, as land reform activities could take so long that existing knowledge, experience and skill could be lost. CPAs should also be committed to ensuring that the beneficiaries see themselves reaping the fruits of their land; this could be mainly through engaging beneficiaries in specific projects on the restored land. They need to be investors on their land so that they can fight to defend it.”
Mazwi Mkhulisi, programme manager at the Vumelana Advisory Fund, highlights that the private sector has a crucial role to play to drive a successful land reform programme.
“The private sector is an important role player with capital, markets and technical capabilities. There are commercially viable farms that have been transferred to land reform beneficiaries, which can be put to productive use through collaboration. Productive uses can include tourism, where the easing up of lockdown restrictions is expected to support a recovery of this sector. It can also include agriculture with options for local production as well export markets. There are attractive investment opportunities for pragmatic investors,” says Mkhulisi.
About Vumelana Advisory Fund
Vumelana means to agree with one another.
The Vumelana Advisory Fund (Vumelana) is a non-profit organisation that helps beneficiaries of land reform programmes to put their land to profitable use by establishing commercially viable partnerships between communities and investors. Vumelana was established in 2012 to support the establishment of commercially viable partnerships between investors and local community landowners to create jobs, income and skills. It aims, among other things, to demonstrate the value of Community Private Partnerships (CPPs) as a contributor to successful land reform. To date, Vumelana has facilitated 20 partnerships, putting approximately 87 800 hectares of land to productive use; assisting over 15 000 beneficiary households across the country.