Thought for the Day 2 August 2018
My thought for today is a little random. I was thinking about land redistribution. I believe that it is the right thing to do at a moral level, but I think the idea of land redistribution involves a bigger question. That question is my random thought for today:
“For what purpose will the land be used?”
Why do I think this question is an important one?
First of all, as our new president says, agriculture must become a major income earner and job creator for the country as well as the bread and meat basket of this nation. The implication of this is that the land that is redistributed for an agricultural purpose must be worked in an efficient and effective way to produce this income for the country as well as a living for the people who work that land. That means that the purpose must be determined before the appropriate land is selected. For example, the land that is suitable for different types of livestock is different from arable land used for crops. Also, because there are economies of scale for certain types of crops, land might be allocated to a co-operative community rather than an individual. Similarly, the year round average temperatures, in an area, might be suitable for particular fruit trees but not others. Another consideration is what size the allocated land must be. Again the purpose will determine the size. Largescale farming of cattle for meat or milk requires more land than a similar operation for free range chickens.
A further critical consideration in any allocation of agricultural land, once its purpose has been determined is what infrastructure and training is required to make the purpose achievable on a sustainable and profitable basis?
On the other hand, it might be that land will be distributed for people to build or buy houses to live in. Here again, careful thought is required to determine the location and size of that land. Key questions are:
- Has a proper site plan been developed to meet the needs of the community that will have dwellings on the site? If not that must be completed first.
- Is there a choice of house plans to cater for different family structures and are those plans green and energy efficient?
- Has expansion been easily provided for in the site design?
- Is all the required infrastructure available – water, sewage, electricity, roads, railways, jobs, and other similar things? If not how will it be provided?
- Are the materials required to build the dwellings available at a suitable price?
- Is the labor force available with the requisite skills to do the job, again at a suitable price? If not, is there a DIY option?
- Will the size of the plots on the site provide space for the owner to grow his/her own fruit and vegetables?
- In the case of rural communities, has provision been made for either individual or communal space for livestock of various types so that families can be as nearly self-sufficient as possible in terms of food supply?
All in all, this whole question is not complicated in conceptual terms – it should be possible for everyone to own land for a particular purpose. But the question is complicated in terms of execution.
After all, this has been done before, mostly unsuccessfully, in other African countries. It would be a tragedy if South Africa went ahead and redistributed land and the new owners were able to do nothing useful with it for themselves or anyone else. That surely would be a worst case scenario. And it would also be a disaster if currently productive land became unproductive.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?