South African farmers hit gold in Congo

By Crystal van Wyk

Posted on May 3, 2012 07:13

Despite having been in agriculture for generations, some South African farmers have had to leave their country as they felt their skills were not fully appreciated in their home country.

Despite having been in agriculture for generations, some South African farmers have had to leave their country as they felt their skills were not fully appreciated in their home country.

Taking the unusual step, the farmers packed their bags and went where no other foreign farmers have gone, and despite their skin colour Africa, they say, is their only home.

Last year, several South African farmers said goodbye to their country and set up base in the Congo-Brazzaville, with the aim to farm and ensure food security for the Congolese.

According to reports Congo handed over 80,000 hectares of arable land to a company owned and operated by 14 South African farmers.

Their jointly owned company, Congo Agriculture, was handed given 63,000 hectares of land at Malalo II and an additional 17,000 hectares at Dihesse, in the south-west of the country. According to the initial agreement, the farmers were going to set up a food processing industry in Malolo II.

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Fast forward, one year later, the farmers are smiling, and so are the Congolese.

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa, Dr Pieter Mulder visited the farmers and officials last week and said, “within a very short time the South African farmers in the 
Congo have made a huge impression on the president of the Congo and the minister of agriculture of that country.”

Mulder said he held talks with the president of the Congo, Dennis Sassou Nguesso as well as with the Minister of Agriculture, Robert Maboundou.

Mulder said the talks dealt with, amongst others, the position and future of South African farmers in the Congo. According to Mulder, the farmers have established themselves on a state farm of 85 000 ha in the Niari Valley.

“Within a couple of months the farmers had de-forested 1200 ha and planted maize in its stead. The repaired the water pumps and pipes to the land with the result that the local population now also has tap water.

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“Where the local baker sold only a few loafs of bread a week, he is selling 200 loaves of bread a day as a result of the new job opportunities and money available to the local community” said Mulder.

The project has since been declared as a presidential project.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), of the 10 million hectares of arable land in the country, the Congolese only farm two percent. This is why, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, 21 percent of Congolese face serious food insecurity.

The government still spends 60 million dollars on food imports every year, according to official statistics.

“It is with mixed feelings that one listens to the gratitude that the local politicians have for the farmers’ expertise and diligence.

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“Only once the leaders and the population of South Africa start to realise
 the value of these farmers, we will be able to turn the loss of these farmers and agricultural expertise around,” added Mulder.

According to Agri South Africa, several farmers have been invited to farm in countries like Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania and that local farmers had been “invited to 26 countries in Africa over the past three years”.

It is also estimated that there were between 800 and 1000 South African farmers elsewhere in Africa.

According to Bloomberg, South Africa is sub- Saharan Africa’s largest producer of wheat and the region’s third-biggest importer after Nigeria and Sudan.

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