Production vs ownership
One of the biggest misconceptions about farming is that farming can only be done by farmers who own land. There are plenty of ways to get into farming. You can enter into rental agreements with people who have idle land or you can get involved in crowdfarming ventures.
When you start to separate the farming aspect (an economic activity) from the rightful ownership aspect you may be able to see that the land question poses more questions than issues.
Prodcution vs Ownweship
Production can be defined as the action of making or manufacturing from components or raw materials. Ownership can be defined as the act, state, or right of possessing something.
A lesson can be learned from what happened in Zimbabwe. The fast track land reform program was an important step in addressing colonial injustices. I am not here to argue about whether it was wrong or right, nor am I here to talk about the methods used to take back the land. I’m here to talk about production.
Overnight many people suddenly found themselves with land. They became the owners. But they were not able to produce. It was not because they lacked the skills or the passion. They lacked a key raw material. Money. This created a scenario where there was ownership, but no economic activity, production. The banks would not lend money to these farmers because they did not have title to the land. (All land became state land after the land reform program. Farmers were issued with 99 year leases). The international community punished Zimbabwe for violating property rights and closed off lines of credit. So banks could not borrow money from outside to then lend to farmers.
This was a disaster for an agro based economy. But again I am not here to talk about those effects. I am hear to talk about what could have been done differently and how South Africans can avoid this trap.
Smallholder farmers are the real heros
Smallholder farmers produce 70% of the food consumed in Africa, yet they are deemed not to be credit worthy. This statistic makes sense when you think about it. Commercial farmers produce commercial crops like flowers for export, maize for stockfeed or grapes for wine making. Smallholder farmers produce food for consumption. Just look at any informal vegetable market around the country.
We need to change the narrative that states that commercial farmers are the ones who feed the nation. The real heros are smallholder farmers. They are the people who are feeding the nation but are ignored by traditional financial instituions because 1 guy farming on 10ha of land doing maize is not as sexy as one guy doing a 1000ha maize. But there are are there are a 1000 guys doing 10ha for every one guy doing 1000ha.
We need to start looking at smallholder farmers as a collective unit and not individuals scattered everywhere. Only then does a picture of their power start to emerge.
In order to harness their power, we have to provide them with the raw material that every farmer needs. Money! The best way to start recaliming the land in South Africa is to start by funding smallholder farmers. We need to take control of production by taking control of how smallholder farmers are financed. If this is done now, when the land issue is addressed in South Africa there will be no need to worry about banks controling production.
Reclaim the land
The best way to support smallholder farmers is by getting involved in the agricultural value chain. Farming is hard work. It takes dedication, passion and determination. Not everyone wants to be a farmers or is cut out to be a farmer. In Zimbabwe a lot of people got land only to realise that its not for them. Yet they love the idea of growing crops and raising animals.
2 ways to get involved are by providing smallholder farmers with access to finance and better access to markets. By providing finance for farmers prodcution can be controlled. If we want to reclaim the land then we need to take control of production. Banks control production yet they do not own the land, so why cant we the people do the same? Land ownership is not the issue.
So how can we finance farmers? Crowdfarming has made it possible to take control of production. You can become a part of the agricultural value chain from the comfort of your own office or home and earn great returns while you are doing it. In South Africa you have YouFarm, Agricool and Livestock Wealth. Fedgroup has also gotten in of the crowdfarming bandwagon.
What do these companies have in common? They are using the power of 4IR to get farmers funded and allowing people who do not have access to land an opportunity to earn money and become a part of the agricultural value chain.
Stokvels currently have close to R49 billion sitting in bank accounts earning little to no interest. The only winners here are the banks who then take that money and lend it commercial farmers and other businesses, ignoring smallholder farmers.
Imagine if 10% of that money was channeled towards supporting smallholder farmers. Not only would the stokvel members get great returns, but the downstream effects would be amazing. You create employment and prosperity in rural communities.
Supporting smallholder farmers is an opportunity to take control of production. Once you take control of production, the land ownership issue becomes irrelevant and can be left to the politicians deal with. While they argue we can can take ownership of a large part of the economy.
To reclaim the land we need to look beyond the politics and noise. We need to see who the real heros are, the smallholder farmers, and we need to get behind them.
That farmer that produces chickens to sell to her neighbours is helping feed the nation. That farmer with a small plot producing maize contributes to feeding the nation. When you take all of the smallholder farmer and combine them into on group you suddenly have a large army of producers that can not be ignored.
If you would like to become a part of the agricultural value chain visit our website http://www.youfarm.africa and register as a crop investor. Follow is on Twitter and like our Facebook page for up to date information on the latest projects. If you have any questions about how you can invest or how you can become an agent and support farmers in your community feel free to email us firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +27730270637