On 31 May 2022, farmers from various farmer associations marched to provincial departments of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) across the country to handover their Memorandum of Grievances. Farmer associations who joined the march included the Cannabis and Hemp Association, Forestry Development Association, Organic Farmers, Mohair Producers, the Black Farmer Association and Bee Farmers.
While DALRRD’s mission is to ‘accelerate land reform, catalyse rural development and improve agricultural production’ protesters says the department is failing black farmers. In their petition, the list of grievances relate to a lack of farmer of support and land reform.
The farmers grievances included:
- Non-existent land reform in South Africa
- Forever delayed farmer support
- Lack of infrastructure support
- Closing of regional offices without consultation of farmers
- Inflated prices for poor service due to PFMA and tendering system
- Demand for a working Farmer Production Support Unit (FSPU) with at least three mechanisation centres in every Municipality
- We need clear deadlines for implementation of support programmes
- Frequent changes of MEC of Agriculture and Rural Development disrupts farmer support programmes
- Market Access
- Farm security and the problem of stock theft
- Agricultural Disaster Management
- EIA and Water Rights
In the Bhisho in the Eastern Cape, farmers handed over their petition to the MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Nonkqubela Pieters. The march was organised by a young activist Luyanda Shushu who is a farmer and a leader of the National Plas Farmers Association (NPFA). Inyanda Community News interviewed Luyanda to find out more.
Question: Why did you see the need to initiate and organize Eastern Cape Farmers March?
Mr. Shushu: As a farmer myself, I know and understand the frustration of the farmers. I concluded that there is a need to organise a march for the farmers because we have common challenges. We found that we have common motive and common idea to rectify these issues before it’s too late.
Question: Do you believe that the MEC will be able to assist the farmers with the challenges listed in the memorandum of demands submitted?
Mr. Shushu: We have identified that the MEC can assist us as farmers because she’s in the centre of all the departments that farmers have challenges with, including the Department of Land and Agrarian Reform who could assist the farmers to get their farmers’ title deeds.
When farmers apply for grant finding they want title deeds or lease agreements which is difficult for farmers to produce because they don’t have and they have been applying with no luck or response and assistance from the department.
Farmers find it very difficult to apply for secure lending because of the compliance challenges.
Also farmers need assistance with applying for state land that is available for them to utilize.
Question: Are there any other challenges that you feel farmers need assistance from the DRDARR?
Mr. Shushu: Yes, I feel like farmers lack information from the Department because the officials don’t meet the farmers halfway when it comes to completing the grant forms or following proper procedures. Sometimes they don’t give farmers seedlings or even pay a visit to their farms.
That is why it is important for us as farmers and leaders to meet with the MEC and officials from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as well as the Department of Water and Sanitation in one room in order to address our challenges.
Water is another challenge for our farmers. We trust that this time the MEC and the Department of Water and Sanitation will come to the party and attend to the farmers challenges.
Question: Did the MEC agreed to meet with farmers leaders?
Mr. Shushu: Yes, the MEC agreed to engage with us. The MEÇ signed and accepted our memorandum and we are hoping to receive the feedback within seven working days.
Editor’s Note: At the time of going to print, MEC Nonkqubela Pieters had not responded to the farmers’ Memorandum of Grievances.