This year’s Agbiz Congress was held on 7 and 8 June at the Boardwalk International Convention Centre in Port Elizabeth. Many presentations focussed on the important topics of land reform and water governance.

This is what was said:

Land reform – PLAAS perspective

Prof. Ben Cousins is the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian studies and senior professor at the faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of the Western Cape. The question he posed was: Land reform – what can the private sector contribute?

“Land reform has the ability to renew itself and we all desperately need to come to the party to find solutions. The current situation is one of uncertainty, with several emerging views, such as land reform, which has largely failed, new energy and commitment that are required and strong political leadership/will, which is very much needed.” He said that there are currently a lot of dangers and opportunities.

Cousins worked through land reform policies from 1994, and land reform policies from 2004, showing that progress and impacts are slow and ineffective.

Concerning private sector support, he said that some private sector companies (e.g. sugar and forestry) and individual commercial farmers provide support to smallholders, as well as land reform beneficiaries. He pointed out that black smallholding farming systems are very unique and need support from the private sector. “But only in limited numbers. There are few examples of successful contract farming and many negative experiences such as the irrigation schemes in Limpopo. A few small farmers supply supermarkets with fresh produce.  This is, however, not under contract. In the absence of a wider set of procurement regulations and incentives, the practices and requirements of dominant market actors tend to exclude small-scale farmers.”

Several forms of support offered by the private sector were highlighted, such as training in relevant skills, with over 50% of farmers benefitting. Prof. Cousins said, however, that there are very few support programmes that focus on the specific farming and marketing systems of market-oriented smallholders in loose value chains.

Land reform status update

Theo Boshoff of Agbiz took a closer look at the current policy environment where there are many land reform policy proposals, but no clear direction. Turning to legislation, he said that the parliamentary process was underway, while it was still too early to be able to tell if the government’s amendments regarding land reform would pass constitutional muster.

Moving on to the expropriation without compensation process, Boshoff addressed the ANC resolution where “the constitution will be amended to allow for expropriation without compensation; but proviso must increase agricultural production, food security and not harm other sectors of the economy, and must take place within the law, as smash and grabs will not be allowed.”

He said that different mechanisms are needed to address urban, rural-social and rural-commercial land reform. “But key to the debate is the restoration of dignity.” Boshoff also made use of the opportunity to divulge more information about the participation of Agbiz to date.

Water security and water governance in South Africa

Trevor Balzer, DDG: Strategic and Emergency projects at the Department of Water and Sanitation, looked closely at the National Water & Sanitation Master Plan – Water Security and Water Governance in South Africa.

 “South Africa has lost more than 50% of its wetlands. While about 50% of the country’s water resources originate from 10% of its land, many of the water factories are under threat,” he said. “Take into account that more than 3 million people in the country still do not have access to basic water supply services, while 14.1 million people do not have access to safe sanitation.”

“The National Water Act (NWA) seeks to ensure that water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed, and controlled to take into account promoting equitable access, and redress the results of past racial and gender discrimination.” Balzer continued, saying that the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan (NW&SMP) is based on five key objectives that defines a “new normal” for water and sanitation management in South Africa. “Without intervention, we could have a deficit of around 17% by 2030. Water availability could deteriorate,” he said.

“Being ready for the future means making a diversified water mix a reality in our country. Current use by the various sectors show that agriculture is the biggest user of water, while the municipal/domestic sector is the second biggest user.” Another interesting fact named by Balzer, was that South Africa’s municipal use per person per day, averages 237 litres, while the average elsewhere in the world is 173 litres per person. – Carin Venter, Farmbiz.

 Click here to read more about the congress.

For more information on the presentations, please visit



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