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Agriculture and land reform has dominated policy discourse in the recent months, with diverse views about the sector’s role to the economy and land reform policy. Hence, it is hard to ignore what comes out of the political parties’ manifestos ahead of the general elections. What I have managed to lay my hands on thus far is the African National Congress (ANC) manifesto, but I am sure the other major political parties will release their own in the weeks and possibly months to come. Characteristically, the 68-page ANC manifesto promises a host of things. But the agricultural section presents the typical statements – sustainable and radical land reform, increased support for emerging and small-scale farmers, growing the country’s agricultural export markets, and advancing women’s access to land amongst other matters.

My general impression of the proposals in the manifesto is that they are pragmatic and encouraging, highlighting the importance of working with established agribusiness to boost exports of the sector, and increase investment in agricultural research – which by the way has been dwindling for some time, see here – and new agricultural technologies which would improve the sector’s competitiveness. Of course, whether these policy proposals get implemented is another matter altogether.

There are also mentions about the desire to “address domination of agricultural inputs by big business and the monopoly domination in agro-processing and food retail that keeps out small players.” I know some academic researchers have been writing a bit about this, but I will not comment at this stage, until I have done proper homework, but it is worth flagging, as it keeps coming up in policy discussions.

The points around land reform policy echo what has largely been dominant in the public discourse (see below), although there are processes in place which will potentially add to the government policy focus, one of which I am part of – land reform and agriculture advisory panel.

As more political parties come out to outline their manifestos, I will be keeping a close eye to see if there are any new ideas on agriculture and land reform. Anyway – below is an extract from the ANC’s manifesto that focuses on agriculture and land reform.

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Sustainable and Radical Land Reform

Land reform is about redressing historical injustices and dispossession of the black majority. It is also a vital opportunity to unlock growth and promote socio-economic transformation. Our land reform programme provides a sustainable but radical way to address the land question. We will use our land reform programme to build productive assets for our people, unlock agricultural productivity, secure food security and address the persisting reality of apartheid spatial separation.

We will:

• Support the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution to clearly define the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can take place. This should be done in a way that promotes economic development, agricultural production and food security.

• Submit the revised Expropriation Bill to parliament to provide explicit circumstances under which land expropriation in the public interest may happen without compensation. The Bill will ensure that laws regulating expropriation will include the principle of expropriation without compensation through just and equitable provisions set out in the Constitution.

• Speed up the resolution of all outstanding land restitution claims.

• Work with the established agribusiness to:

– ensure that the sector continues to increase its contribution to export earnings;

– develop greater support for emerging and small-scale farmers;

– invest in agricultural research and new smart technologies to enhance the sector’s market share in global trade;

– work with like-minded countries to ensure just international agricultural trade regime;

– develop a sustainable agriculture strategy to mitigate the impact of climate change and identify new growth areas for production as well as diversification to new agricultural products that will ensure food security.

• Address the domination of agricultural inputs by big business and the monopoly domination in agro-processing and food retail that keep out small players.

• Consolidate all government support provided to small-scale farmers to ensure expanded production, including promotion of their co-operative activities or eco-systems through joint marketing and joint processing of their produce to ensure better impact.

• Address domination of agricultural inputs by big business and the monopoly domination in agro-processing and food retail that keeps out small players.

• Ensure that no land is wasted or underutilised through enacting and implementing measures to promote urban agriculture and community food gardens to provide national food security and reduce hunger.

• Give priority to land administration, management and development of skills in land related careers such as land valuation, land surveying and town and regional planning.

• Introduce measures to address high land and property costs, which push the poor majority into the periphery and deepen racial inequalities.

• Accelerate the transfer of title deeds to the rightful owners as part of the rapid land release programme that makes parcels of land available for those who want to build houses themselves.

• Ensure tenure security through adequate recognition and protection of the rights of long-term occupiers, women and labour tenants in communal land tenure.

• Advance women’s access to land and participation in agriculture and rural economies.

• Promote sustainable use of water resources, including smart agriculture, to mitigate the impact of climate change. ”

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