The latest policy discussion paper released by South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), presents a positive change from the ambiguous agricultural policy.
According to Wandile Sihlobo, Senior Researcher in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, the paper addresses key issues which, if implemented relentlessly, would spur the growth of the sector in a way which would benefit everyone.
The policy document is due to be debated at the ANC policy conference in July, which is a precursor to the party’s elective conference scheduled for December this year.
“Previous policy documents have been clouded by proposals to amend the constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation in specific circumstances,” Sihlobo said.
“Beyond the push for radical land reform, there was insufficient reflection on the drivers of growth in the agricultural economy and the importance of food security. The recently released document focuses on key interventions to boost the agricultural and rural economy. It highlights the sector’s role in job creation and poverty reduction.
He applauded the ANC for recognizing that: Agriculture remains an important sector of the South African economy. It has the potential to lift many poor South Africans out of poverty through increased food production, vibrant economic activity and job creation.
He added that the policy discussion paper draws on the findings of a series of studies from 2018 which found that, on average, growth in agriculture reduces poverty more than equivalent growth outside of agriculture. ‘agriculture.
“It highlights the need to invest and increase agricultural production. This is if South Africa wants to reduce poverty, increase its rate of economic growth and the rate of development, especially in rural communities.
Overall, my assessment is that the idea presented by these working papers on agriculture, land reform and rural development is good. They also address the fundamental issues that have held back the growth of agriculture in South Africa,” he said.
“That said, once these ideas have been adopted as ruling party policy positions, they still need to be translated into government policies. There is a risk that they will be diluted along the way. Much will also depend on the government’s ability to implement the proposals.
“The ANC recognizes that the growth of the agricultural sector depends in part on effective land reform that includes bringing underutilized land into production. These lands are mainly found in state-owned farmland and former homelands in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces. Weak land governance, infrastructure and institutions in these regions are among the main obstacles to agricultural progress.
The academic said the ANC should now focus on the Land Reform and Agricultural Development Agency, first announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2020 and most recently in the state of affairs address. the nation in 2022.
“Ideally, the agency would focus on the redistribution pillar of the land reform program. The other pillars are land restitution and land tenure. The agency would provide national coordination, cut red tape and become a one-stop shop for issues related to decentralized redistribution of farmland.
“The ANC policy documents also highlight the need to improve the functioning of municipalities and network industries – road, rail, water, electricity and ports. These are questions that I have repeatedly insisted on. ed Some of the challenges the sector has faced in the recent past stem from the malfunctioning of network industries and the failure of municipalities.