Over the years, we have learned that it is possible to create mutually beneficial partnerships in land reform, says the Vumelana Advisory Fund.

14 February 2022: Land Reform – Partnerships have the greatest potential to propel the success of land reform and enable the creation of viable commercial agricultural and tourism related companies if such partnerships are facilitated in a mutually beneficial manner. So argues the Vumelana Advisory Fund, a non-profit organisation that facilitates partnerships between land reform beneficiaries and investors to enable the success in land reform efforts.

Since 2012, Vumelana has facilitated partnerships between land reform beneficiaries and private investors through its Community Private Partnership (CPP) model. CPPs are established between communities that acquire access to land under the land reform programme and private parties. Typically, the communities bring their land and labour and the private partner brings capital, access to markets and skills to the partnership. The intention is for private investors to share their skills and enable communities to get to a point where they can independently run their land successfully, with the skills they acquire from the investor.

Many partnership models exist. In 2013, the partnership-driven model for land reform, known as the Karaan Plan, was introduced into the national debate via the National Development Plan by late Professor Mohammad Karaan, the then acting vice-principal of Stellenbosch University and a former dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences. The plan was aimed at creating a pool of profitable black farmers. According to the Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI) network, the model is currently widely applied in Africa.

Professor Karaan was also a member of the National Planning Commission and co-authored Chapter 6 of the National Development Plan (NDP), which advocated the framework for the partnership-driven model for land reform.

While the plan was initially met with scepticism, following broad engagements in March 2013 between AgriSA and the National Planning Commission, an agreement on an interpretation and implementation plan for the model was outlined in the NDP’s Chapter 6.

Whilst there is broader consensus that a partnership driven model for land reform should be promoted, the scale at which it is currently being implemented is limited and there is a need to accelerate this in order to ensure wider and more visible impact.

According to Peter Setou, Chief Executive of the Vumelana Advisory Fund, “The biggest challenge in the failure of some of the land reform partnerships is trust and a lack of funding, as seen in some of the partnerships. While funding has been a responsibility that has primarily been performed by government, the government cannot do it alone.

“The private sector, investor community, and other non-government entities have an important role to play in enabling the success of the land reform programme if the right environment is created for their participation in land reform.

“There is room to drive successful and mutually beneficial partnerships for land reform between land reform beneficiary communities and private investors. If we can focus on these efforts, by 2030 we can reach some key milestones. However, these endeavours should be scaled up, and not facilitated by only a few. It’s time that the government fully supports these interventions to land reform to encourage more participation from the private sector,” says Setou.

According to Vumelana, over the last decade there have been several successful land reform collaborations.

Since 2012, Vumelana has facilitated 23 partnerships between land reform beneficiary communities and private investors. Approximately 70 000 hectares of land have been put to productive use as a result of these deals, benefiting around 20 000 beneficiary households. There are further projects which are being supported which once concluded, would attract in excess of R1 billion in investments.

To date, Vumelana has received over 300 requests for its Community Private Partnerships (CPPs), requesting assistance in the identification of suitable partnerships.

Partnership-driven models have proved to be effective, especially with communal property institutions (CPIs) and land-owning Trusts. Examples of such partnerships facilitated by Vumelana include the Moletele CPA in Limpopo. The community comprises around 1 615 families who are represented by the Moletele Communal Property Association (CPA). Through its partnership with its investors, Matuma Farms, the community has been able to create jobs for the community, earn an income from the 20-year lease agreement in place with the investor, acquire much-needed skills through various training programmes provided by the investor, and make long-term improvements to their land.

The partnership between Ebenhaeser CPA and the Stellar Group is another success. This is one of the largest land claims in South Africa, encompassing 18 283 hectares of property near Vredendal in the Western Cape. The partnership has increased local community export prospects, provided work for community members and provided other financial benefits to beneficiary households.

Through its partnership with the Stellar Group, the Ebenhaeser CPA has secured a deal to export pumpkins to the Dutch market and has also been able to produce cash crops, which include tomatoes and beans, for the local market.

“Private companies such as the Sanlam Foundation which is ploughing about R5 million into Vumelana’s work continue to enable efforts to drive the success of land reform. More such efforts from the private sector are necessary to shoulder the funding burden among land reform beneficiary communities,” according to Setou.

“If the last decade’s triumphs and failures in land reform partnerships have taught all those involved anything, it is the complexity of creating successful partnership projects. However, over the years, we have learnt that it is possible to create mutually beneficial partnerships in land reform,” said Setou.

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