Following the historic elections in 1994, the South African government embarked on an ambitious land reform programme to redistribute and return land to previously disenfranchised and displaced communities. However, many black people lack the knowledge, skills and experience needed to manage their land. In close collaboration with the provincial government of the Northern Cape, FARM-Africa has been working since 1995 with communities in the province who have benefited from the land reform programme.
The main aim of FARM-Africa’s Northern Cape Land Reform and Advocacy programme is to contribute significantly towards improving the well-being of land reform communities and reduce poverty in the region. An additional objective is to strengthen the capacity not only of emerging black farming communities to manage their land more effectively and efficiently but also of the Departments of Agriculture and Land Affairs so that they can support the land reform process better.
It was evident to the FARM-Africa team that the way in which the government is implementing its land reform programme is constraining many of its beneficiaries from making agriculture a more important element of their livelihoods. Some of the problems include the distance that many communities have to travel to access their land, which, in some cases is up to 300 kilometres from where they live. Another was the lack of education and skills among community members for effective organisation and planning. Meanwhile, the lack of infrastructure such as broken or inadequate machinery, coupled with the inability to access the funds to replace it, further hindered farmers’ ability to realise the potential of their newly acquired land.
FARM-Africa’s experience, gained over nine years of working with land reform communities, indicates the need for the government to invest more heavily in the pre-designation phase of the land reform process. Frequently many of the problems experienced by land reform groups in the post-designation phase can be traced to issues that were inadequately discussed before
the land was transferred, and often the problems are more difficult to resolve after the predesignation phase leading to inefficient resource use.
This publication highlights key problems and lessons learned from FARM-Africa’s experience of working with land reform communities in the Northern Cape province as well as providing recommendations that will enable land reform communities to use their land more effectively.