Restitution farm going backwards

August 31, 2010

A runaway fire that destroyed several hundred hectares of plantations and extensive grazing on a land restitution farm near Babanango has dashed the community's hopes of restoring the farm to a viable business unit. They don't have adequate fire fighting equipment to protect the land they have been given by government, they have no capital to get the farm back onto its feet, and they believe that they have been abandoned by the Land Claims Commissioner.

Emcakwini after forest fires

Emcakwini Trust chairman Eric Buthelezi and farm manager Gordon Potgieter, surveying the damage from the fire that's set them back.

Several years ago, the Emcakwini community received 22 000 hectares of land in terms of the land restitution programme, which included wattle and gum plantations, plus extensive cattle and game farms.

Community Trust chairman Eric Buthelezi and farm manager Gordon Potgieter told SA Forestry magazine that promises of post-settlement support funds from government have been made, but to date they've received nothing. Now they've been told there are no funds left anyway.

They had one bakkie sakkie, lent to them by Mondi, and had to borrow a vehicle to put it on, to fight the runaway fire that came up from the Umfolozi valley and swept through their land in the last week in June.

The only income being generated on the farm is from a charcoal operation that the community has set up and from a little timber that they are able to harvest. Eric said that they are now negotiating with the Land Bank in a last ditch effort to get some operating capital, but the reality is that the once-productive farm is going backwards. The game is being poached, the cattle have lost much of their grazing, and the plantations are in need of serious rehabilitation and/or re-establishment.

Meanwhile the community is running out of patience as all the promises of land and jobs come crashing down.

Published in August 2010

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