Minister of Economic Opportunities, Beverley Schäfer released the results of an independent evaluation determining the success of agricultural land reform projects in the province, that receive support from the department of agriculture.

The study rated the projects on 39 indicators in environmental, socio-economic and economic categories and found that 72% of projects were successful in the period between 2014 and 2019.

This represents a 10% improvement on results achieved in a study of the success of projects between 2009 and 2013.

Commodity approach pays off

“The department set themselves goal of achieving a 70% success rate for land reform, and we have more than achieved this. These results show that the Western Cape’s commodity approach to land reform is creating successful businesses and farmers,” said the minister.

While the constitutional mandate for land reform rests with the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the Western Cape provides support to land reform projects through a unique and effective commodity approach where the support of 11 commodity groups representing agriculture from horticulture to livestock, is leveraged to provide funding, market access and technical support.

Through this programme, coupled with the additional project implementation support provided by its agency Casidra, the province has been able to provide mentorship, training, market access, contracts and access to grant funding, equipment and infrastructure.

Comparisons show improvement

The Western Cape is the only province to have conducted an independent evaluation of the projects it supports and the results from the latest study indicate that the support package offered to farmers is creating a real impact in terms of business growth and their quality of life.

“What we are seeing from these results is that support is critical to a land reform project’s success,” said Schäfer.

In order to ensure the comparisons of the studies are valid, the department commissioned Kayamandi Development Services, who conducted the original study, to complete the follow up. The farms chosen were compared using the same set of parameters.

The study evaluated 105 of the projects that receive support from the department and found that 16% of farms were classified as “highly successful” while 56% were classified as “succeeding”.

A further 24% were “challenged” and 4% had failed.

This is an improvement on results of the previous study, where 14% of farms failed, and only 11% were found to be highly successful.

To further test the improvements, the researchers made a direct comparison between 19 farms chosen in both surveys.

Overall, they found that these 19 farms had improved from an average rating of 59% during the previous evaluation, to a current rating of 65%. Of the 19 farms, 14 showed improvement, while the remaining five remained in the same category.

The survey results indicate that farms scored lowest in the survey’s environmental dimension and highest in the economic viability portion.

The most successful farms scored an average of 86% for economic viability indicators which included basic business practices, such as having registered a company and a bank account and being tax registered.

“It is clear from this survey that the farms run as a business are the most successful. Farmers that are tax compliant, and keep sound financial and production records, are the most likely to succeed. Unfortunately, the environmental indicators, like the use of renewable energy and waste recycling seem to be among the lowest scoring indicators, which gives us an indication of where our support and extension services should be focusing going forward,” said Schäfer.

The report also indicates that those farms, where farmers had invested some of their own funds into the business tended to fare better than those where farmers did not. The finding was that beneficiaries who have something of their own to lose are more committed to the project. Slightly more than one third (36%) of beneficiaries contributed no capital of their own to the farm’s financial kitty.

‘What we have seen from the challenged projects is that many are situated in the Central Karoo and Eden districts and many farm livestock. These areas are still dealing with the impact of the drought and we believe this may have had some impact on their success. However, we have also seen that these farms have less financial and tax compliance, and report lower ratings of relations between beneficiaries,” Schäfer said.

“What we are most pleased to see is that many of the beneficiaries report that they have a better quality of life. The number one objective of land reform is to ensure that people can access economic opportunities and improve their lives,” said Schäfer.

The research found:

  • A significant increase in the overall rating levels of satisfaction with life, with 47% indicating some improvements in overall satisfaction.
  • Nearly all beneficiaries anticipate high, or very high, future financial satisfaction will be brought about by the project farms.
  • Beneficiaries rarely, if ever, experience hunger, and 37% have seen an increase in food security
  • 56% of beneficiaries enjoy increased incomes.
  • 38% of beneficiaries enjoy an improvement in the standard of physical living environment.

Farmer comments

Byron Booysen a hydroponic farmer, farms tomatoes and cocktail tomatoes, who received infrastructure support from the department said: “I could approach government and discuss with them what my goals and needs were over the next five years and with the support we’ve gotten from them, we have reached some of those goals.”

Justice Mxokezeli, a mixed farmer from Bredasdorp said the department’s help in buying livestock was a key point in the development of his business. “I’m looking to become a big guy. I want to be competitive locally and internationally through exports,” Mxokezeli said of his future plans.

Achmat and Wadea Brinkhuis started their farm Chamomile in the Philippi horticultural area 12 years ago. “When the department first came here, Wadea and I bought five chickens, now we’re up to 13 000,” Brinkhuis said.

Background to farm research

In total, 105 farms were evaluated from across six regions. Of these 105 farms, 12 had received support very recently and were deemed too immature to rate. There were 17 replacements to the original 105 for various reasons, and of these 17, nine refused to participate in the study.

Each farm has an average of 10 beneficiaries. The gender distribution between beneficiaries is fairly even, with 48% female and 52% male. More than half (52%) are between 36 and 49 years old. The majority (67%) had more than five years of farming experience at the start of the project, while 16% had no farming experience. About a quarter (23%) had a grade 10 (standard eight) education, 8% had a diploma and 19% had a degree. The average number of full-time employees per project is six. – Press release