Amid the current focus on land in South Africa, there are many examples of transformation by commercial farmers across KwaZulu-Natal, who understand that the future success of the sector depends on true and meaningful change. They have quietly been driving change at grassroots level themselves.
Some of this change has been undertaken by individual farmers together with their employees, while others have formalised their initiatives and are working with neighbouring farmers to uplift entire communities. Many Farmers’ Associations in KZN have also identified the need to take responsibility for transformation, employing experts to drive this change in their communities.
But it is not always the formal initiatives which bring about meaningful change; change and the real improvement of lives can also happen when and where we least expect it.
An example is the stock sale auctions that take place across the province several times a month. Previously, an avenue used predominantly by commercial farmers, livestock auctions are now also giving the informal sector access to highly competitive prices and unwittingly bringing together all farmers who have a common ground – their livestock.
Some of the driving forces are local famers’ associations, AAM Livestock Agents & Auctioneers and The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“We have all been working on introducing small scale farmers, traders and informal buyers to the formal stock sales. The bringing together of large and small sellers and buyers benefits all parties in the commercial chain, as more cattle are offered, and more buyers attend the sales. DARD (the department) have also focused on assisting and advising small scale farmers, and encouraging them to formalise themselves by setting up local farmers’ associations and working constructively with the auctioneers,” said Karen Melouney from AAM.
“Through the networks established at livestock auctions, we have been able to link small-scale farmers to stud breeders. Again, as this initiative is commercially driven, sound relationships are being formed between stud breeders and small-scale farmers. Progressive small-scale farmers are tapping into the knowledge base of large commercial farmers, skills and experiences are being shared, and the small-scale farmer is being recognised as an important buyer, and therefore critical to the long term sustainability of the commercial breeder,” said Melouney.
And it appears to be working; the stock sales have also connected all farmers who deal with the same issues such as stock theft and other livestock challenges, by building relationships and providing them with the opportunity to connect.
“At a financial level it is about understanding the value of your product and about exposing everybody to the same markets. At a social level, the auctions have brought together farmers who have the same goals; they all want to farm and to make money and it has nothing to do with politics,” said Melouney.
“At stock sales, farmers get to meet farmers from neighbouring communities as fellow sellers and buyers, thereby connecting them and giving them the opportunity to see and understand that even if their cultures are different, their needs and wants are issues that unite them,” she said.
Chairman of the Howick Districts Landowner’s Association (HDLA) in Lions River, Keyan Carlisle, says the formalisation of the informal sector gives small scale farmers and traders access to convenient, market-related prices and commercial farmers access to more buyers.
“It is a win, win situation for everybody and the by-product is the bringing of farmers together. It is a good example of how a commercial venture, by benefiting everybody, is healing the social divide,” said Carlisle.
Kwanalu chief executive Sandy La Marque commended all involved for their role in driving change in the sector.
“This approach is truly beneficial to all parties; the integration of all farmers at a local level which brings about economic growth and unity of purpose should be supported and explored throughout the province,” said La Marque.
For further information, visit www.kwanalu.co.za or call 033 342 9393.