Address by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the Presidential Mechanisation Lead Project, Cape Town

27 March 1996

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Thoko Didiza;
Mr Lukas Rautenbach, Managing Director of Massey Ferguson (SA);
Honourable MECs of Agriculture;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Those of us who are familiar with the conditions of subsistence farmers know the difficulties under which they operate. With only rudimentary instruments, they have to rush through a relatively short ploughing period, and, if they miss it, they have a bad harvest. The irregular rainy seasons of the recent past have worsened their situation. It has not been made any better by the inefficiency of tractor hire services. As a result, many have had to supplement their income by taking up seasonal employment. Some keep their children from school to assist during the busy seasons.

It was to address this situation that the Department of Agriculture launched its Broadening Access to Agriculture Thrust as a Presidential Lead Project of the RDP. Its aim is to develop efficient services for farmers who previously had only limited access to them. It will expand the Government's capacity to service and assist an increasingly diversified farming sector.

Since its launch a year ago, the programme has enable 12 000 emerging farmers countrywide to access production loans. More than eighty poor farmers and farming communities have been able to purchase their own tractors. In order to make funding more accessible to those who need it farms' organisations like co-operatives are being used as channels rather than conventional financial institutions.

As a developing country, agriculture forms part of the foundation of South Africa's economy. Our growth potential will depend a lot on our agricultural performance. Improved agricultural production will have a positive effect on inflation and on foreign exchange earnings. Agriculture is therefore a priority for investment and development within the Government's growth and development strategy. And one of the keys to realising these objectives is to unlock the immense potential of farmers who were marginalised by apartheid.

Deputy Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen;

The tractors we are receiving today from part of this project to broaden access to agriculture. They will go to ten different rural communities in four provinces to benefit 3 000 families. Together they farm an area of more than 8 000 hectares. The government regards this as a stepping stone for these communities to be self- sufficient.

The communities have been carefully selected by provincial governments from a sea of deserving cases. They were chosen among other things for the quality of the community leadership; initiative demonstrated thus far; and the inaccessibility of hire services.

These communities do not see this as a donation, but as a challenge to prove themselves. The eyes of the nation will be on them. They know that as pioneers of this project, their achievement will determine our future approach and the willingness of other companies to follow the example of Massey Ferguson.

May I take this opportunity to thank the management and workforce of Massey Ferguson for responding so swiftly to our request. They have set a standard for other companies to follow. Government and business are partners in the Reconstruction and Development Programme. Together with farming communities we can transform our agriculture from one in which a highly modernised sector operates alongside one that is under-resourced and poverty-stricken.

As a son of a farming community myself, I know how they relish challenges. I can assure all of you here today that with government land reform and more interventions of this kind by the private sector, emerging farmers will soon be ready to take their rightful place at the centre of the agriculture industry.

I thank you all

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website