NATIONAL AFRICAN FARMERS UNION NAFU PRESENTATION TO THE NATIONAL LAND SUMMIT ON LAND REFORM PRESENTED BY MR MOTSEPE MATLAPA I find it interesting Chairperson, that as we are gathered here to deliberate on effective ways to accelerate land reform in South Africa and to find equitable ways of sharing the available land in socially acceptable ways, that so little discussion revolves around the real reasons we got ourselves into this mess in the first place. We believe Chairperson that that one of the primary reasons we are locked in this struggle for agricultural land can be traced to the way that a growing greed for financial profit has transformed agricultural land into a production commodity instead of maintaining its status as the fundamental building block of sustainable food production. Why is it chairperson that we have developed the belief that we can continue to increase agricultural profits without eventually running out of something? Well, in the first place we seem to be running out of land, and this we can all feel as land reform remains a critical issue on every continent today, and in the second instance we are depleting the fertility of agricultural land at an alarming rate, but this is not so visible because we are blinded by the sight of a gleaming row of twenty harvesting machines spewing riches into waiting trucks on single-crop land that stretch over the horizon. The irony of course, is that it is not the farmers who drive this greed, but clearly farmers are now having to foot the bill and are expected to come up with solutions to the land crisis that is being caused by those who are downstream of them in the agricultural value chain. I will come back to this concept of what is being done to our land Chairperson, but first I would like to examine the dilemma that this greed for profit has left us within South Africa. In South Africa, black farmers who were not even in a position to participate in the rush for agricultural profits for many decades, are now left with such a backlog of enablement, that even comparing the South African situation insofar as land reform is concerned to countries like Brazil, Japan or wherever, requires far more complex modeling than is currently being applied. (LAND) Our members Chairperson have very little land, they face almost insurmountable obstacles in acquiring land, and when they do acquire land they find themselves so far outside the agricultural value chain that competitive production seems impossible. In additional to this, the survival of a small farmer whether he is in fact Black or White, has become so irrelevant to the accountants who drive for corporate profit growth, that ultimately farming feels more like a punishment than a reward. It is shocking Chairperson, when you study the paper entitled “Power Hungry” by ActionAid International on the need to regulate the activities of transnational corporations, to see that aggressive corporate profit-growth strategies by such transnational corporations in Brazil were the direct cause of forcing 50 000 operational small dairy farmers out of the formal mild supply chain. What chance does a Black farmer trying to penetrate a market effectively under the same type of corporate control have in South Africa? Giving him or her land is clearly6 not enough. We are indeed facing the same dynamic in this country and we note with concern that the study by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) reports in its 2005 Baseline document, that “The area planted to the main field crops (white and yellow maize, wheat, sunflowers, sorghum, soybeans) is projected to decrease rapidly until 2007, after which it will stabilize at approximately 4.5 million hectares.” The report ascribes this directly to the low maize price and it represents an effective drop of over 400 000 hecrtares since 2002 in these commodities alone. The question Chairperson not in the report but that indeed needs to be asked is, if the farmers are getting so little for their maize that they are going out of business, why are we not paying less for our pap. (OBSTACLES TO ACQUIRING LAND) We do not believe that the there is too little land in South Africa to promote a healthy and stable agricultural sector based on socially equitable principles. We do however know that access to, and utilization of land is complicated by a number of factors. People like to say that land is expensive and this is a major cause for the problems we face. We could live with expensive land is normally good and productive land. Expensive land is a normal dynamic and the cost of acquiring expensive land can be mitigated through diligent and focused production. We contend that land is overprices. This is not a normal dynamic and the best production techniques will not allow a farmer, whoever they may be, to farm in a manner that would allow them to repay the cost of overpriced acquisition. Overpriced land has many causes but the two most pertinent reasons in our opinion are as follows. In the first instance sellers inflate the actual value of agricultural properties by incorporating the perceived value of improvements on the property that do not enhance production capacity and hence ability to repay acquisition loans. Please take note that the majority of these non-productive improvements were made possible by unrealistic profits realized in a subsidized production environment, extremely low repayment interest rates (also subsidized), and with the utilization of a labour force that had no minimum conditions of service protection. Buyers on the other hand, are faced with the prospect of competing with a global food market that no production subsidies, they will have to borrow money at competitive commercial rates from financial institutions that all of this while paying minimum wages, maintaining respectable work conditions and providing socially responsible developments assistance to their work force. It this is the definition of willing seller willing buyer then clearly it won‟t work because while it may all sound like a level playing field chairperson, clearly this playing field has been built on two terraces with the one half (or perhaps it is more accurate to say three quarters of the field) much higher than the other. In the second instance, overpriced land results form the wealth being generated in western economies (quite often at our own expense) that can afford to buy land in South Africa and let it lie fallow until a handsome profit can be made when the exchange rate is favourable. Let me pose this rhetorical question. Would it benefit the western maize industry if a sizable chunk of our maize producing land were turned into game reserves with the aid of profits made from subsidized maize? I think that indeed it would, but we would not know in any case if we don not begin to maintain accurate information regarding foreign land ownership, the origin of the funding as well as the purpose for which the land in South Africa is being utilized for. On this subject of information Chairperson, it remains one of our biggest concerns that the relative lack of accurate and reliable information about Black farmers, their successes and the contribution they make to feeding our nation, continues to allow those who resist government‟s efforts to reform our industry, to shout untruths about us and to hide the fact that their only real contributions in to destabilize and environment that is politically precarious poised. We know what happens when the fundamental need of people to work land is ignored. In Zimbabwe the frustration felt by people in this regard was not adequately addressed and we have also unfortunately seen what the destructive impact on an economy can be when the agricultural foundation of a country in destabilized to the point where normal dynamics and relationships cease to exist. The government in Zimbabwe could not manage the situation without the collaboration of the private sector and we must take heed of what happened and ensure that our own private sector and civil society be activated to play a significant contributory role on the road ahead. (LAND RESTITUTION) It is the very same dynamic which impacts on the willing seller willing buyer concept that continues to frustrate the process of land restitution. The delays we see Chairperson, more often than not relates to the vastly different perceptions of value that people attach to agricultural land. We in NAFU contend that the subsidies utilized by the previous government to build a strong agricultural infrastructure were aimed at preserving a national resource to the benefit of a select few. We do not see why the benefits that we accrued under the guise of national priority (and I here refer specifically to non production enhancing improvements on farms subject to the restitution process) should now be expressed as personal value to be bought back by the government. Clearly the payment for such value puts further unnatural upward pressure on land prices and government would fail in its objective if it were to become party to or allow this to happen. The difference in perceived value of land is a reality that needs to be addressed in a calm and logical way. There is also much talk Chairperson on the need for extension of the period for land claims to be lodged. Let‟s examine the apparent reasons for these calls. In the first place there is clearly a perception that not all were in a position to understand the process to the point that they were not able to fully exercise their rights. In the second place there is also a perception that in those cases that were heard either successfully or otherwise, that the robustness and diligence of the process was suspect. The fact of the matter Chairperson is that we are not today in a position to either confirm or contest these perceptions reliably. What we in NAFU would like to see therefore, is a diligent and professional review done in a transparent manner, to determine the validity of perceptions calling the process into question. Surely if such a review were in place, the conclusions and recommendations emanation from it would be acceptable to all reasonable people. In this regard NAFU also calls for a review of all legislative mechanisms governing land and agrarian reform in South Africa. The reality we face in agricultural today Chairperson is that while land indeed plays a critical role, we do not have a balanced agriculture as we have not had for some time (the high subsidy levels utilized for decades by the previous government is surely testimony to that). Please allow me to read a quote in this regard: “It is an easy matter to destroy a balanced agriculture. Once the demand for food and raw materials increases and good prices are obtained for the produce of the soil, the pressure on soil fertility becomes intense. The temptation to convert this fertility becomes intense. The temptation to convert this fertility into money becomes irresistible. Western agriculture was subjected to this strain by the very rapid developments which followed the invention of the steam-engine, the internal combustion engine, electrically driven motors, and improvements in communications and transport. Factory after factory arose; a demand for labour followed; the urban population increased. All these developments provided new and expanding markets for food and raw materials. These were supplied in three ways: by cashing in the existing fertility of the whole world, by the use of a temporary substitute for soil fertility in the shape of artificial manures, and by a combination of both methods. The net results has been that agriculture has become unbalanced and therefore unstable.” These Chairperson, are not the words of a modern conservationist worried about the way we are raping the land to increase our profits and grow our corporations, they are the words of Sir Albert Howard in his book, „An Agricultural Testament‟ which was first published in 1940. We are indeed in a tight spot Chairperson, as we find ourselves trying to solve the problems of land reform at a time when the very foundation of a sustainable land policy, that being a sound and balanced agriculture, has decayed to the point where it is now on a virtual life support system in the form of artificial fertility treatment. The most curious thing about our dilemma Chairperson is that we are on the continent where people have farmed for millennia in a manner that maintained harmony with nature. If we are failing at following the western agricultural model, them perhaps it is because we find it hard to be successful at doing the wrong thing. Many visionary agriculturalists increasingly maintain that the only viable solution to sustainable land management lies in a return to natural farming (or organic farming to use the popular term). Africans are good natural farmers and perhaps we are looking in the wrong places for our solutions. I realize that it may seem that I have diverted from the main topic of this summit Chairperson, but the objective of my argument is to draw attention to the fact that our problem is not one to be faced only by the Honorable Minister Didiza and her departments of Agriculture and Land Affairs. The government institutions that are the closest to the people who must benefit from land reform are the municipal administrations. We are concerned Chairperson, by the apparent lack of enthusiastic participation of these institutions in acceleration this process. We would indeed like to see very intensive activity at municipal level where the real emotions and needs of Black farmers can be determined and significant work can be done to enhance the information that we have available. As we go forward in the following days Chairperson, we want to call on all role players to adopt a new attitude to finding lasing solutions to the problems that are undermining the ability of the agricultural sector to produce efficiently. We must work together as a team and we must overcome the efforts of those who will want to frustrate government on any of its initiatives to ensure that a stable and equitable agricultural reform process is concluded. We must also encourage those sectors of the economy that are not directly involved in our plight to answer to their sense of responsibility and to make a decisive and lasting contributions to alleviating the crisis we face. Where are the corporations that stand to lose so much if we fail to conclude effective land and agrarian reform. Where are the financial institutions who could generate hundreds of thousands of thousands of financially viable customers if they were to stand back from their constant drive for profitability growth and find sustainable relationships with the agricultural sector. Where is the spirit of collaboration that we see in the other economic sectors that now see us in the agricultural sector lagging further and further behind in concluding the liberation of our country. Why do we not take heed of the fact that it was probably the previous government‟s intense focus on their agricultural objectives as a primary strategic resource that saw them surviving for such an illogical long time. Where is our commitment to the Freedom Charter that declares “ The land shall be shared amongst those who work it”.
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