Mbombela — The Mpumalanga government is on a drive to revitalise 292 farms that were acquired in land claims.
The MEC for Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration, Candith Mashego-Dlamini, made the announcement when presenting her department's R980.4 million 2012/2013 budget in the provincial legislature on Tuesday.
"The department targeted 292 identified land reform farms to bring them back to their production capacities. Out of these, we will focus on 125 for infrastructural development," she said.
Mashego-Dlamini said the department would mobilise community members and facilitate conflict resolution sessions to ensure that the rest of the farms become productive.
"It is a known fact that the backlog in the development of land reform farms is huge," she said.
The MEC said that while the rural development and land reform section of the department was still pushing to finalise land claims, the agricultural section was in the process of dealing with those that were previously restored.
"Unfortunately, most of these are characterised by infighting and conflicts, making it impossible for the groups within Community Property Associations or trusts to agree on the development they want for their farms," Mashego-Dlamini said.
She said the department would continue to assist farmers who were keen to get into partnerships with prominent commercial farmers.
"The strategic investor and partnership models are new and very sophisticated for our farmers, who as a result of past systemic dispossessions and alienation from the land have not developed special entrepreneurial acumen and capacity to operate high value agricultural estates," the MEC added.
She said these partnerships were critical to avoid job losses and keep the farms productive once they were transferred to the new owners.
Mashego-Dlamini said mentorships were also important.
"We also have a well-established and experienced farmer in the Gert Sibande district (who is) already taking along his fellow emerging farmers in a mentorship programme. We are very excited with this development because it is a sign that we are about to turn the tide and get land reform farms back into production," she said.
She said some of the projects were already supplying fresh produce markets with high quality apple products under the farmer's mentorship.
"We really need people like him in the department in developing the land reform beneficiaries and generating the much needed jobs," Mashego-Dlamini said.