In order to increase agriculture’s contribution to the South African economy, President Jacob Zuma has called for a strategic reform of the land holding rights.
The President made the call at the launch of Operation Phakisa for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development held at the Agricultural Research Centre, Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute in Roodeplaat, Pretoria, on Friday.
“If we do not radically change the patterns of land ownership, control and management in South Africa, we will be creating problems for ourselves in future. We need to take bold steps that will transform our economy, including land ownership, very fast,” said President Zuma.
Held under the theme “Transforming the Agricultural Sector towards an Inclusive Rural Economy”, the Operation Phakisa programme will review existing producer support models and develop finance models aimed at fast tracking land reform, given the urgent need for government to make progress in food security.
The programme also seeks to address constraints in ensuring equitable access to land, both towards economic development and agrarian transformation.
President Zuma said that despite many challenges, the agricultural sector has faced over the past few years, recent trends suggest that the country is beginning to turn the corner.
He said that over the past six years, employment in the agricultural sector has risen by almost 300 000, even while farmworker wages were increasing.
“Over the past 15 years, the share of households experiencing hunger has declined by more than half. And there are signs of economic vibrancy in the former homeland areas, including impressive declines in unemployment rates since 2001.
“We seek to build on these achievements, and to strengthen the role of agriculture, and its intrinsic relationship with Land Reform and Rural Development, in further defining an inclusive rural economy for South Africa,” President Zuma said.
He said the challenges they face that they seek to correct with the programme, include the fact that rural areas are still characterised by poverty and inequality, and farm workers still earn the lowest wages among those formally employed in the country.
“In addition, despite increased spending on overall support programmes for smallholder farmers and Land Reform, the overall performance and productivity of the sector remains low. The opportunities for producers to participate in the broader agro-food system are limited.