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The impact of Covid-19 on land reform beneficiaries

By Katlego Ramantsima

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the prevailing key topics in the agricultural sector that arise are the pandemic’s impact on food security, employment and health care. These are crucial areas of concern as the coronavirus outbreak has proven to have an impact on every part of the agricultural sector and the economy at large. However, less attention has been given to land reform and its beneficiaries. This is a concern as the agricultural land beneficiaries are also meant to play a significant role in ensuring food security for all populations, contribute towards employment creation and rural transformation.

The agricultural sector was declared a critical industry, and it was largely operational even throughout the strict Level 5 lockdown. Only a few subsectors such as tobacco, wine, wool and floriculture industries experienced the harshest lockdown regulations which were later relaxed at Level 4, 3 and now Level 2.

In these various sub-sectors are land reform beneficiaries who felt the harsh consequences of the Covid-19 lockdown. These are coupled with long-standing consequences of the unresolved issues of land reform such as insecure tenure rights, lack of government support, lack of access to markets, loss of production and income, and some remain subject to corruption.

I followed up with a number of land reform beneficiaries who shared their stories with us in the Elite Capture in Land Redistribution report to find out how lockdown has affected them and how they were coping under the lockdown. Nirwanda farm, located in the Hex River Valley in the Western Cape, was one of the farms featured in the report to demonstrate a case of farm flipping and how different forms of corruption combine to facilitate elite capture.

In this video below, Mpho Molaoa farm beneficiary and one of the Big Five Farming Co-operative member of Nirwanda farm, shares with us how the lockdown has kept some of them away from the farm, prolonged the possibility of getting assistance from government and worsened the chances of realising a productive farm.