Growing demand for SA’s agricultural skills

South Africa's deputy agricultural minister Dr Pieter Mulder (middle) was approached by a Nigerian government delegate (left) on May 15 2009 asking for Afrikaner farmers to boost commercial agriculture in Nigeria. Similar free-land offers were also made by the Congolese government. (Source: Digital Journal)

Business Day | 2011/05/26

Nigeria, Sierra Leone latest countries with plans to recruit SA farmers, writes Loyiso Langeni

SA’s commercial agricultural skills are a sought-after currency on the continent, with Nigeria and Sierra Leone the latest to announce bold plans to recruit South African farmers to their countries.

Other beneficiaries of SA’s advanced farming techniques include the Republic of Congo , Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

There are about 1000 South African farmers and entrepreneurs in the farming industry who are doing business throughout the continent. Georgia also last year announced an ambitious plan to recruit South African farmers to relocate there.

Nigeria has 79-million hectares of arable land and 70% of the population is engaged in farming activities. Notwithstanding these factors, Nigeria each year imports food and agricultural products to the value of $4bn.

Robert Orya, CE of state entity Nigeria Export Import Bank, is working on a plan to improve the country’s commercial agricultural sector. "We want to tap into the expertise of SA’s farming community to enhance our agro-processing, livestock and commercial farming techniques," Mr Orya says. "We have generous tax incentives in place for any investor willing to consider our country as an investment destination."

Nigeria is also willing to assist investors in any sector to repatriate their profits to their home countries without regulatory obstacles.

In Sierra Leone, 11 years of civil war that ended in 2002 has negatively affected the economic development of that country.

Democratic rule has now been restored and the new administration under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma has targeted agriculture as a key sector to stimulate economic recovery.

Sierra Leone has 5,4-million hectares of cultivable land, 90% of which is available for commercial agricultural opportunities. Rice, palm oil, sugar and cocoa are grown in the country.

"Our government is focused on growing the agricultural sector through increased commercialisation and private sector investment," Richard Konteh, Sierra Leone’s trade and industry minister says.

He says foreign investors can lease land for an initial 50-year term followed by multiple 21-year extension contracts. Sierra Leone has also passed laws that would protect the investment of foreign firms from any civil upheaval.

On a visit to SA last month to drum up support for foreign direct investment, Mr Konteh also said his country would consider offering South African Airways a licence to operate domestic flights.

Farmers’ union TAU SA says its members would be encouraged by this announcement.

However, the union says it will only consider investing its farming technology expertise if these countries could guarantee the security of the farmers. "Africa has a big potential but we have been let down by governments on the continent when it comes to protecting the security and assets of our members," Bennie van Zyl, TAU SA’s general manager says.

"Quite often in Africa our members have experienced trust issues as their security could not be guaranteed and their assets being confiscated in times of political instability," Mr van Zyl says.

Despite these factors, farmers were committed to ensuring the continent’s food security through the continuous improvement of farming techniques, he says.

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Original source: Business Day


  1. Dr. Olaseinde Makanjuola Arigbede ---- USMEFAN
    03 Jun 2011

    As a deeply patriotic Nigerian, a smallholder farmer in Nigeria, and as one privileged to lead a smallholder farmers' organisation, USMEFAN (United Small and Medium scale Farmers' Associations of Nigeria), it is a matter of great pity and shame to have to contemplate the sell-out reported in this posting. It is true that our so-called political leaders, some years ago, before 2009, for reasons known only to them and certainly not the ones they sold to the world, went abegging to have people thrown out of an African country for quintessential injustice based on the bigotry of race, to fellow humans and owners of the land in South Africa, to come 'teach Nigerians how to farm'!! I personally encountered members of the initial white farmers' team at two conferences and they were obviously acting in their own, not the African farmers' interests. When challenged, they had no real defence and pretended at none. Our then erstwhile Minister of Agriculture tried to explain this national disgrace by saying that the Nigerian elite were incapable of farming successfully, hence the need to invite the proven South African expelled farmers to come show us how to do it! This, from a minister in charge of agriculture, to whom our teeming millions of smallholder farmers looked for correction of the age-old neglect and abuse of farmers in our country. It is true that the elite, awash with crude oil and other lucrative mineral resources that the country is blessed with, held farming in contempt and only paid lip service to agricultural policy formulation and execution, only voting large sums of money yearly for farmers and agriculture, to dive the monies and leave the sector and the millions of smallholder farmers who feed the country to languish in misery. The same smallholder farmers who created the miracles of the Groundnut pyramids in Nigeria before crude oil discovery, the ever increasing output of cacao and other crops, as well as enough food to feed the citizens of the most populated African country, had suddenly been adjudged, along with their lazy upstart elite farmers, as incompetent. In the nationwide television programme that I presented (One-On-One, on NTA 2 CHANNEL 5) one week after the minister's apologia, I asked that he should render unreserved apologies to the farmers of this country for maligning them. I do not know why a people come to deserve such political leaders as we have had over many years, but I know that minister or any leader at all, should never have the right to say such horrendous things about a consistently hard-working and competent farmers. Even today, despite 5 decades of criminal neglect of the most important sector of the economy and its practitioners, these farmers produce 80% of national staple food needs. It is known fact that the same governments that neglected their own farmers, provided these magical South African farmers with all imaginable support: credit guarantees in banks, literally free farmland running to hundreds of hectares, assurance of availability of fertilisers and other inputs, brand new tarred road from their farms to link access roads to aid their production effort, guarantee of government support to repatriate earnings, etc., etc. Beyond this, the new farmers had an inexhaustible supply of cheap labour whose conditions of work could not be scrutinised by any media or reporter and who definitely were not allowed to form or join unions to protect their interests from farmers from such background as that of the expelled SA farmers. It is known now that these magical farmers are moving off from producing arable staples to boost food security in the country and shifting to the less exacting livestocking, especially poultry! It is a real pity that the sins perpetrated by political leaders, they themselves never suffer from nor have to answer for and it is the rest of their ditched countries that suffer, for long, from their terrible policy initiatives. Nigerian farmers, particularly the long suffering smallholder farmers, have a long struggle ahead of them to humanise the conditions under which they have to carry out their great national task of assuring sustainable food sovereignty for their country. As I expressed to the South African farmer whom I encountered in Bamako, we can only hope that the same contagion which caused these farmers to be thrown out of emergent Southern Africa, would not follow them to Nigeria and other countries. After all, it is the same Black Africans in the South as in the rest of the continent.

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