Cape Town - The Western Cape committee of the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (AFASA) recently shocked the province and national agricultural community by resigning and joining another organisation.
Support, transformation, politics, and financial resources are some of the reasons that led to the mass resignation of members in the province, according to Ismail Motala, former provincial secretary and spokesperson of AFASA, who also resigned along with chairperson, Elton Jefthas.
He said AFASA in the province had, for the past 10 years, tried its best to support black producers and transform the agricultural economy of the Western Cape. However, the western Cape’s agricultural economy was the least transformed, and it had been difficult for AFASA to make a difference.
"AFASA National lacks both human and financial resources to assist its members. Provincial structures are on the front line of the battle to transform the agricultural economy.
“In order to make a difference, black farmer organisations must understand the complexities of the agricultural economy of the Western Cape," said Motala.
He added that the leadership of AFASA in the province were all full-time farmers and were finding it very difficult to assist members with the intensity needed to make a difference.
If AFASA provincial structures weren’t supported by full-time human capacity, the responsibilities would depend on a few farmers to run the developmental agenda.
"The challenges that black farmers face on a daily basis, such as policies not favouring black farmers, access to water, lack of financing models, and access to formal local markets, to name a few, need a full-time farmer support structure to fight for or represent the farmer."
Attempts by the Weekend Argus to get comments from the national president of AFASA, AJ Mthembu, on this matter weren’t responded to.
He did, however, refer the paper to another publication, which quotes Thandeka Mbassa, the newly elected CEO of AFASA, as saying: "The organisation will provide the province with the necessary support in electing new leadership and ensuring that it is constitutional."
It remains unclear as to when the organisation will elect its new leadership in the province.
Meanwhile, just a few days after their resignation, the formation of a new organisation called the Black Agricultural Commodities Federation (BACF) was announced. Ismail Motala has become a member.
Motala said this organisation wouldn’t compete with AFASA or any other black agriculture organisation, because it would be be commodity driven.
He said the federation's vision was to see a sustainable, prosperous, and transformed agricultural economy.
"We have adopted a different approach, which is a commodity approach that will ensure a federation through commodities. We create farmers of varying sizes and value chain players that will begin to drive serious transformation of the sector," said Motala.
BACF's founding commodities include African Poultry Producers, African Game Ranchers Association of South Africa, Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber South Africa, National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organization, Livestock Wealth, South African Farmers Development Association and South African Grain Farmers Association.
He said the BACF was prepared to tackle problems faced by black commodity structures head-on because it was aware of the economic difficulties that commodities organisations were experiencing.
"There is much serious work to transform the sector and position black farmers to take ownership of the agricultural economy in line with the demographics of the country," said Motala.