Agri SA’s Natural Resources Centre of Excellence committee and newly constituted Water Desk last month met with a select group of South Africa’s leading water experts to discuss South Africa’s perilous water situation and to test and improve on Agri SA’s existing “Water for food security” strategy.

The meeting was attended by Prof. Mike Muller, Adjunct Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Governance; Dr. Gerhard Backeberg, executive manager: Water Utilisation in Agriculture at the Water Research Commission; Mr. Helgard Muller, Specialist Consultant: Water Policy, Regulations and Institutions; Mr. Felix Reinders, Institute for Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Research Council; Mr. Nic Knoetze, CEO South African Association of Water Users Associations; Mr. Johannes Möller, former president of Agri SA together with Agri SA’s Mr. Hoffie Joubert, Mr. Cornie Swart, Mr. Willem Symington, Mr. Christo van der Rheede, Mr. Greg Smith and Mr. Janse Rabie.

The meeting focused on the existing threats and opportunities in the water sector in South Africa as set against the backdrop of Agri SA’s present response mechanisms towards addressing the challenges currently facing both commercial and small-scale agriculture.  The meeting identified the need for unity within the agricultural sector in order to serve the sector effectively and to take action in addressing the challenges facing water governance in South Africa.

Important further issues that were considered include the need for the devolution of powers as provided for in terms of the National Water Act, issues surrounding compulsory licensing of water uses, the roles and responsibilities of Water Users Associations and the current position surrounding existing lawful water uses.  The meeting also emphasised the imperative need for Agri SA to keep on consulting with and supporting small-scale and emerging irrigation farmers.

“South Africa has one of the most highly regarded and progressive laws dealing with water management in the world.  Unfortunately, it is not being correctly implemented, even after having been promulgated nearly 20 years ago” said Prof. Mike Muller.  “Both government and the citizens of South Africa should endeavour to make South Africa’s water law work”. – Agri SA