Some thoughts on land ownership

In the context of unprecedented urbanisation in the history of economic globalisation, growing inequality, inadequate nutrition, and food insecurity, the time is ripe for a new agrarian renaissance.

The global crisis in food prices continues to make headlines across the globe for rising prices. The hardest hit demographic are the poor, particularly in Africa, indicating a vital need for food security and sustainable livelihoods to ensure social stability and cohesion. Furthermore, global environment is under strain and climate change is the biggest threat to our society today. Climate change is no longer a threat in the distant future and unfortunately the poor suffer the most.

Because small farmers often lack the expertise and resources necessary to succeed in the highly competitive farming industry, implementing projects with small scale farming communities can have employment, income generation and sustainability impact, as well as long-term commercial viability.

Whilst Africa is the home to half the world’s usable uncultivated land, the continent has not been able to use these tracts to enact meaningful change in this arena.  In recognition of the continuous challenges of hunger, malnutrition and rural poverty, the African Union has also declared 2014 as the “Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa”. In the words of Rhoda Tamusiime, the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, “We cannot talk about African Dignity without the ability to feed ourselves”.

With this in mind, Earthrise Trust sought to build a sustainable, rural community and found a candidate in the form of Rustlers Valley Farm, situated in the Eastern Free State. This area is primarily made up of large-scale commercial agriculture along the Caledon River, with a growing number of organic farmers and white-owned farms. Despite a small number of large-scale black economic empowerment farms focusing on apples and grapes, there is currently very little opportunity for black farmers to own land and build small holder farming.

Job creation and increased levels of income are of paramount importance to creating a rural culture of self-worth, independence and pride in their community. The introduction of holistic farming opportunities and primary and preventative health services is the only realistic way of improving the quality of life of marginalised rural people.

Agrarian transformation would entail improving the productivity, economic viability and sustainability of farm enterprises, with a focus on rural initiatives, co-operatives and vibrant local markets. The aim is to empower rural communities, particularly women and youth, thus transforming power relations and contributing to:

  • Economic growth, with economic benefits experienced at local level;
  • Efficiency in water use through suitable technologies;
  • Ensures availability of land for socio economic development, economic growth through the agricultural sector and access to food security, and;
  • Improved production.

The successful implementation of this policy will result in a sustainable, self-sufficient community which features skilled agricultural entrepreneurs who own and manage competitive small-scale agroecology enterprises. This gives the marginalised populace a human voice, enabling social participation and local growth