Dr. Pieter Mulder, Deputy Minister of Agriculture was in March 2012 one of the guests at a day long international seminar at the North-West University, presented by the International Institute for Development and Ethics. Dr. Mulder and the panel of speakers, which included the Campus rector and noted agriculture expert Prof Herman van Schalkwyk, all contributed towards the day’s theme "How can social entrepreneurship contribute to sustainable agriculture in Southern Africa?” Dr. Mulder was quite candid in his description of the country’s current state of agricultural affairs.
“At the moment in South Africa we have tension between two political imperatives as far as agriculture is concerned. On the one hand we need food security – we cannot afford for people to go hungry and start running around in the streets as has happened in other countries. On the other side land reform is also important – we must get stability as far as that’s concerned. If it happens, as at the moment, where nine out of 10 land reform projects fail – then we have the reality currently where 30% of productive agricultural land in South Africa has been lost since 1994 up until now. “
According to Dr. Mulder this in effect means that commercial farmers must produce more food on less land. In his speech Dr. Mulder provided a possible solution to this conundrum. “It is very important that once we start looking at solutions we should talk about facts – statistics and figures that have been verified. At the moment there is too much propaganda and emotional slogans being thrown around. Government claims for example that 8% of land is in the hands of black farmers, while 87% belongs to white farmers. I highly doubt this and would like to see a land audit so that we can really know who owns what, which I am convinced will take a lot of the emotions out of the debate.”
Dr. Mulder is however optimistic that once a positive dialogue is in place, these and other issues can be addressed in a pro-active manner. “Then we can look at the realities of commercial farming where you produce food for the people in the urban environment. We must also look at how we can get rural people and subsistence farmers productive too, because they play an important role in getting stability in South African and empowering the rural areas.”