A BLOG DOCUMENTING THE PROJECT
So we have just made available a draft of our new report Opportunities for open data sharing for effective land reform planning, implementation and producer support: Examining the information ecosystem in Matzikama which you can download from the link above.
This report sets out to locate the Matzikama area-based planning project in context. It has drawn on a combination of key informant interviews, a small survey and desktop research to compile a preliminary map of the information ecosystem listing some of the data sets available as well as providing insights into the typed of data needed for area-based planning for land reform and provision of effective producer support.
It has identified functional data literacies required across the board as well as key elements in a multidimensional data skills framework. Overall, we are still left with key questions as to how to best align existing systems and identify operational and management champions at different levels.
What data is needed for local area based land reform planning at local municipality scale?
So, if we are to plan effectively for land reform and the provision of producer support what data will we need and how can this data be obtained, shared and used by different actors?
The mind map above provides an overview of some of the data requirements. It also highlights a critical constraint with current budget allocations which severely limit the scope of state funded and supported land reform. This is discussed further below, together with the shrinking pool of grants and finance options for land reform.
Starting with people
Our starting point is that land reform planning should be grounded in information about people and their needs across a variety of different settings. Currently reliable and up to date data on people in these different categories is hard to find. Available information is highly fragmented being held in spreadsheets, reports and databases by different data custodians. Data formats vary widely creating challenges for interoperability. Much data is not current as it is expensive to update. Data has to be cleaned and reformatted consistent with shared metadata standards before it can become accessible and useable.
We are approaching that the Western Cape Spatial Information Forum (WCSIF) to present this report. The WCSIF will be the best forum to take this further in partnership with the Matzikama Local Municipality. The WCSIF was established in 2012 and meets biannually. It brings together key state and nonstate actors.
Its constituting document states that the primary objectives of the WCSIF are to:
Phuhlisani NPC organised a successful online cross sectoral extension workshop on the 30th September 2021. The workshop was on Zoom and made use of a Jamboard as the workshop collaboration tool.
The workshop brought together a wide range of state and non-state actors including:
Following an introduction to the CBPEP programme and an input providing background on the planning work in Matzikama participants broke into working three working groups focused on
Enrolment in the different groups reflected the conservation and natural resource backgrounds of the majority of the participants.
Valuable discussions were held in each group. Overall, the workshop played an important role in bringing a variety of different actors, all working independently on different programmes into the same space. It highlighted the real value in collaboration and sharing of data and information. However at the same time the workshop underscored the challenges which have to be overcome if collaboration is to be institutionalised as a way of working.
It was clear that there were quite fundamental differences of approach with regard to natural resource management. These surfaced within the livestock and rangeland management group where the ARC and Extension staff in the Provincial Department of Agriculture operate from different rangeland management paradigms. There was agreement that a follow-up session to focus on this issue in more depth would be valuable. Ideally such a session should be face to face as the online meeting platforms necessarily exclude smallholder livestock farmers from remote rural areas like Rietpoort.
So time to catch up with what has been happening in the project.
We have been working with WWF, SANBI and the Department of Environment and the National Cross Sectoral Extension Forum to design a cross-sectoral extension workshop which is scheduled for 11:00 - 1:00 on the 30th September.
The workshop which will be attended by people who work across the landscape in different capacities aims to:
Currently we are heads down assembling a draft plan and at the same time preparing a report mapping the local information ecosystem.
Summarised progress update on the different project components
Component 1: Mobilisation of national government and private sector leadership in support of the project.
Effective mobilization at national scale has been limited to date. Our original approach was to make use of the existing FAO-linked VGGT Multiparty Stakeholder Forum. However, this structure has experienced institutional challenges which have contributed to delays and difficulties in organizing regular meetings.
Given these constraints our focus is on more strategic and feasible national engagement options. Given the pressure of time to complete the plan on the local level, we have approached the Minister’s delegate in the Department with the aim or organizing a strategic meeting of critical stakeholders comprising either:
Component 2: Local level actor mobilisation and structuring
Phuhlisani has twice set about organising a broader social platform meeting of all actors involved in land and agrarian reform within the local municipality. Unfortunately, both meetings coincided with a surge in Covid cases and had to be cancelled due to restrictions on face-to-face meetings in Matzikama.
In consequence we have adapted our approach to concentrate on smaller actor clusters, meeting the different actors individually, or in closely focused smaller planning sessions bringing together officials from the Local Municipality, the Provincial Department of Agriculture, Water Affairs and Sanitation white farmers, black farmers, NGOs and agricultural processors.
We are organizing a broader online meeting of the platform in the first week of October. However, this meeting will not be optimal as it will exclude the participation of certain non-state actors – particularly the majority of black, as well as some white farmers who lack internet access, data or bandwidth for online conferencing.
The cancellation of these broader platform meetings remains a concern, given the whole approach is to obtain commitment to the joint planning process and plan.
There is potential that the vaccine rollout and the relaxing of Covid restriction levels may create more favourable conditions for joint actor mobilization at local level in the final phase of the project.
Component 3: Status quo analysis
A detailed Status Quo report has been completed and distributed in English and Afrikaans. It has also been made available on the project blog. The report will be updated as the project proceeds to include new information obtained through the planning process.
Component 4: Planning programme – this will be the bulk of the work that will be undertaken in the project
Six planning sessions have been held involving different actors. Two were centralized sessions involved key invited actors (specific farmers, the departments and municipality, certain processors, NGOs. These looked at the irrigated area and then the extensive grazing areas. These were followed by meetings in each of Van Rhynsdorp, Rietpoort, Lutzville/Koekenhaap and Vredendal/Klawer – the proposed sub-plan areas. These meetings refined our understanding of the current need (both for land and for other resources for people already on land), explored suggested options for potential land to be acquired, looked at the criteria and joint structures for allocating land, and more.
As noted above Covid has impacted negatively on attendance of these joint face to face planning sessions. In a recent Vredendal/Klawer meeting of the 16 people that had confirmed attendance, 8 were not able to attend as a result of either them or a family member contracting Covid!
Key landowners have been engaged about the possibility of making their land available (on a leasehold or ownership basis). These landowners include the mines, Eskom and the Public Works (state). Auditors with knowledge of the local agricultural economy have been approached to help identify potential privately land which could be acquired. The farmers unions are being engaged to find out who may be interested/willing to make land available on a leasehold or other basis.
State budgets to acquire or make available access to land and provide support is going to be a critical constraint impacting on the plan, given that the state’s allocation for land purchase has been cut more than 40% for the next MTEF period. This will require creativity and further research to identify alternative ways in which land could be acquired, or made accessible at minimal cost.
Access to water further constrains production potential. While in the longer term the area is scheduled to have significantly more water, with the raising of the Clanwilliam dam wall, it is anticipated that the earliest this will only become available will be in five years’ time.
In the interim, the municipality is being consulted, together with the local Water Users Association that manages the irrigation scheme, and the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation, to clarify how part of a large agricultural water allocation in the name of the municipality could be allocated to individuals or groups who currently have access to land, but lack water.
Along with water, we are also looking at the various components of infrastructure development; access to funds for new initiatives by farmers (such as the purchase of livestock); developing concepts to provide support for financial and other record keeping; strategic, commodity and marketing advice; and support to farmers when negotiating prices amongst other aspects.
Phuhlisani is also cognizant of the District Development Model that is currently being implemented through the country. In the West Coast District this has taken the form of the Joint District and Metro Agreement. Phuhlisani has engaged the district municipal Mayor and Manager in this regard, and we are working with them and the Matzikama municipality IDP manager to ensure alignment.
Mapping the information ecosystem, collaborative data management:
This focus cuts across all components - documentation, communication and shared learning.
The first phase of this process involved a survey sent to the various key actors regarding their data and information management systems. We have had responses from:
We have had valuable interviews with staff at the Provincial Department of Agriculture as well as with DALRRD officials focused on the availability of different sources of data and spatial information relevant to land reform planning, monitoring, evaluation and learning. These interviews has greatly improved our understanding of the different types and sources of data available. We hope soon to be engaging with officials within the Western Cape government tasked with strategic information management to find ways to connect the different data sets and discuss the design of shared systems for data curation, access and use.
The Western Cape Government: Department of the Premier (DotP) and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) have identified the need for a co-ordinated spatial information forum in the Western Cape. The forum focusses on Spatial Information and Spatial Data Infrastructure within the Province.
The Western Cape Spatial Information Forum (WCSIF) promotes the sharing of spatial information within the Province and between the three spheres of government through collaboration and co-operation.
We are developing a detailed mind map which collates the different sources of spatial and other data of relevance to land reform planning in the local municipality. This will form a central part of the information needed for the manuals that will be written up at the end of the project to guide further land and agrarian planning initiatives in other districts.
Finding out fast
So if you have ventured a look at our full status quo report you will have seen that it is a document not for the faint hearted - weighing in at well over a 100 pages. So we have extracted the highlights in two more accessible summaries.
Section 1 provides a brief background of the origins of the current CBPEP, EU funded land reform planning initiative in Matzikama Local Municipality. It examines the evolving approaches to area-based planning and the emergence of the current district development model.
Section 2 provides a detailed overview of land and water in Matzikama. It details a variety of different land types
Section 3 highlights some of the impacts of drought and Covid 19 on agriculture, employment and livelihoods in the local municipality. This summarises key findings presented in a more in-depth report which is contained in an annexure.
Section 4 contains rich insights into what is actually happening on the land, as it sets out to profile smallholders and other larger scale black farmers active in the local municipality.
Section 4 provides the foundation for the planning process, helping us to develop a detailed profile of farmers in different settings who have different needs.
Section 5 examines different forms of state support to farmers and provides information on land reform budgets and state capacity to provide support.
Section 6 highlights preliminary findings from a survey seeking to identify current sources of data and information on land, water and agriculture in Matzikama.
You can download PDF files by clicking on the links below:
Download our SQ report
Version 1.2 of our status quo report on land and agriculture in Matzikama Local Municipality is now available for download. We have taken steps to anonymise those interviewed to protect personal information and a draft of the report has been been circulated to key actors for approval prior to public release.
As noted in the previous post we still have some significant gaps to fill - particularly information from the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development which is still outstanding.
We will soon publish an updated version of the report which will be augmented by explanatory maps and other data elaborating on commodity value chains, cellars and processors in the Local Municipality.
The status quo report on land and agrarian reform in Matzikama
Breaking a long silence
More than a month has gone past since our last blog entry. And what a challenging time it has been. We have remained hard at work despite the return to Level 4 lockdown, the official announcements of a Covid third wave increasingly fuelled by the Delta variant and the devastating scenes from KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng over the past couple of weeks which are reported to have claimed over 300 lives.
We have just submitted a first draft of an extensive status quo report.
Phuhlisani NPC gratefully acknowledges all those who have contributed to this initial status quo report. These include the farmers, farmers’ associations, commodity, private sector and civil society organisations, LORWUA, the Matzikama Local Municipality and those officials representing provincial and national government departments, who have contributed their time and knowledge to help create a baseline for inclusive planning for land reform at local municipality scale.
We regard the report as a living document as more information is coming in every day from our different research initiatives.
We are finalising checks with various stakeholders to authorise the public release of the report which we hope will be available in the next day or so. In the meantime, this post will outline what you can expect from the document and highlight where we are going next.
The report covers a lot of ground. It is divided into six sections:
Section 1 provides a background to the CBPEP research conducted during the first phase of the programme and a brief outline of the objectives of the current project. It also contains a review of the evolving thinking with respect to area-based/territorial planning approaches in government. These include the:
Section 2 provides a detailed overview of land and water in Matzikama. It details a variety of different land types including:
Section 3 highlights some of the impacts of drought and Covid 19 on agriculture, employment and livelihoods in the local municipality. This summarises key findings presented in a more in-depth report which is contained in an annexure.
Section 4 contains rich insights into what is actually happening on the land, as it sets out to profile smallholders and other larger scale black farmers active in the local municipality. This section covers:
Section 5 examines different forms of state support to farmers and provides information on land reform budgets and state capacity to provide support.
Section 6 highlights preliminary findings from a survey instrument seeking to identify current sources of data held by different actors and the extent to which this data can be accessed and shared.
Included in the annexure is a standalone report which provides an analysis of production, processing and marketing trends for the key agricultural commodities produced with the Matzikama municipality.
A baseline now in place for planning
So the report provides an important baseline for planning. It pools knowledge from different sources. There remain some gaps which we aim to fill over time, but we for we now have something concrete for those contributing to the planning process.
Changing the planning sequence
The Covid 19 pandemic has forced some changes in our approach. Originally, we had sought to convene a local social platform through a face-to-face meeting. This was to have helped us identify those willing to contribute to core groups focused on different production areas. We are now bypassing this step to put in place working groups which will then report back on their work to a wider convening. We hope to be able to organise the latter as the lockdown restrictions are eased back to Level 3 and we pass beyond the third wave.
A meeting in planned for next week to bring together a range of stakeholders, constitute appropriate core groups and clarify their focus and process.
More on this in the next couple of days.
Matzikama progress update:
24 May – 16 June, 2021
Covid third wave
As of Friday, 16 June there were 143 active cases Covid 19 in the Matzikama local municipality. In the last 24 hours there have been 1499 new cases reported in the province as a whole. Warnings that the third wave is gathering momentum are being made and South Africa has re-entered Level 3 lockdown
According to the latest data Matzikama currently is the Western Cape subdistrict with the third least number of cases. It seems that the precautionary measures reported in our last blog are having some effect although case are on the increase. However as with all Covid data the figures represent confirmed and reported cases. The extent of unreported/unrecorded infections remains unknown.
The Phuhlisani NPC team has continued with fieldwork during this period but has been prevented from holding planned face-to-face meetings due to the pandemic restrictions.
Research on the ground
We have been interviewing small producers involved in agriculture in Matzikama. We started recording interviews using a long and detailed questionnaire. This was designed in Google forms to mirror the national farmer registration form. You can also access a PDF version from our Open Access Resource repository.
But given that out time is very tight the interviews have proved to be too time consuming using this instrument. This has meant that we have shifted to using a condensed version in Afrikaans. A PDF version can be downloaded from our repository. We are currently seeking assistance from local farmer groups to help profile their members.
Currently many of the people interviewed report not having been captured on the National farmer registration database although there seems to be some confusion about the different types of data capture for other purposes such as Covid-19 relief grants and drought relief in the past.
Researching the economic impacts of Covid
Christoff Lombard the agricultural economist on our team has prepared the first draft of a report on the impact of the drought and of Covid on the local economy. He has had a particular focus on the key agricultural commodities produced locally and related value chains. A draft of this report will be made available next week for public input.
Information on state land holdings in the municipality
We have recently received good information on state land holdings in the area. This take us some way to developing a limited land audit – although what is actually happening on this land needs to be clarified.
Engaging with Eskom
We have had discussion with Eskom and no the topic was not load shedding but what contribution Eskom can make to the current planning process. Eskom holds land which could be potentially accessed for grazing by smallholders. The local Eskom representative has expressed a keen interest in considering how to contribute to local area land reform.
Mapping the information ecosystem
The information ecosystem is a fancy term for recording who holds what information and data and whether that data is publicly accessible and shareable. There is already some excellent analysis of the state of land information in South Africa. We are seeking to develop a more granular local scale analysis.
We have recently started to circulate a questionnaire targeting a wide range of state and non-state actors including:
In each of the five categories we have identified a range of possible information and data sets and have tried to design a quick scan methodology where respondents indicate whether they have data in a particular category and if yes what form it is in:
This sets out:
Until the next time keep safe.
The Covid third wave breaks in Matzikama
Phuhlisani NPC has been putting the work in on the ground trying to get as much done before the impending disruption which will be created by the third wave of Covid 19. The health authorities have requested that the local municipality cancel all face-to-face meetings and gatherings, as they have very limited local hospital capacity to deal with the impact of increased infection levels. It is unclear how severe the third wave will turn out to be, and how soon the roll out of vaccines will have an impact in damping infection rates.
Hearing all the voices
All health protocols have been observed to enable a number of individual face-to-face meetings and interviews. These have been conducted with local municipal officials, civil society organisations, commercial farmers, smallholder producers and a range of agricultural processing companies. The latter has included Lutzville vineyards, Klawer wines, Syngenta, South African Dried Fruit, Redsun Raisins, the Table Grape Association and the Optimax finance and admin company which provides support services to smallholder farmers.
Despite the Covid challenges in the past two weeks we have had communication/ online meetings with:
Work has been undertaken to plan an agenda and secure participation for a municipal social platform meeting which was due to be held on the 27th May. However due to the advance of the Covid third wave, this meeting has since been postponed. We are currently pursuing alternative engagement strategies which do not involve face-to-face meetings.
Selected highlights from the past two weeks work
Assessing private sector support for land reform
We are starting to obtain a much clearer understanding of the different private sector land reform initiatives in the area - some of which are very interesting, with much that can be learned from them.
There is a definite positive interest in getting involved with a local municipality scale planning process, especially from the different private sector actors. However, there are very different paradigms and ways of seeing at work here. Processes of harmonising different paradigms and widely differing foundational assumptions will prove challenging, if we are to be able to develop a consensus plan.
Growing recognition of need to plan at different scales and recognise different needsThere is an openness and agreement from most parties that we need to think about a continuum of land use scenarios, that recognise and cater for different production scales and land access needs including:
Who will access new irrigation land and how?
Currently the only access to land for black people is on the limited portions of municipal commonage and the two TRANCRAA areas of Ebenhaeser and Rietpoort. Assuming that a significant amount of new irrigation land becomes available in Matzikama and is earmarked for black farmers and in particular smallholder agriculture, the question becomes who has the technical, financial and management capacity to best make use of this land and how might they best be supported?
Farm workers on commercial farms have many years of practical farming experience, but limited access to land. This suggests that senior agrisector workers who make up the middle management layer on commercial farms, are those most likely to have the skills set needed to farm comparatively larger farms under irrigation. However, they have very little financial capital and may lack social capital and higher-level enterprise management skills to position themselves to be able to access and farm such land. So, the immediate challenge is how to be able to identify and engage with this cohort to explore the possibilities of land reform and their interest in acquiring independent access to land and to develop a realistic assessment of constraints which will need to be overcome.
There are some interesting private sector initiatives in the area, many of which have had no state investment. The question of how to grow these initiatives is going to be complex, but crucial to address - given the lack of funds allocated to land reform by the state. We will be analysing these more closely during the next three weeks to draw out the lessons and identify possible options.
In our interactions with commercial farmers, several state that they to like to see their workers advance and gain access to their own land. They also indicate that they would be prepared to mentor new farmers. However, in an environment where skilled agrisector workers are highly valued and in short supply, their current employers will be reluctant to lose their most capable employees. This suggests that an approach that provides shared benefits may be the way to go.
The Clanwilliam dam – game changer or dream?
In a context of accelerating climate change and drought risk, securing access to water rights is a critical determinant of future sustainability and farming profitability. On paper, plans to increase the height of the Clanwilliam dam wall and expanding the irrigation distribution network create enormous opportunities. However, significant uncertainties remain. We are seeking clarity on the constraints preventing approval of this initiative, possible solutions to the constraints and a realistic timeline for implementation. There are suggestions that a public private partnership could address possible financial constraints. These suggestions will need to be closely investigated in terms of their viability, but the estimations for the Matzikama municipal area, are that the completion of the wall to enable an expanded distribution network, will bring significantly more irrigated land into production. There is broad agreement that this will be the key driver required to expand employment, enable smallholder access to land and water and open up the local agricultural economy.
We are examining how additional water availability from the Clanwilliam Dam will impact on the price of land. In the same way, as the price of land in the lower Oliphants River increased when the poor white affirmative action programme on former Ebenhaeser land was being planned in the early 1920s, it is likely that the land earmarked for acquisition for expansion under the new water will similarly increase in price. From a land reform perspective, the key question will be how to acquire, or secure access to this land before the prices increase. This is particularly relevant given the shrinkage in the land reform budget, and the history of minimal land acquisition for redistribution in the municipality. There is evidence that some processing companies are already acquiring land in the areas which would become irrigable in the future, in order to be able to establish black farmers on the land, and in the process ensure access to water and guarantee their throughput.
Opportunities to promote cross sectoral extension initiatives
In 2020 the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, WWF and SANBI hosted a national dialogue on the potential of transformative cross sectoral extension, producing a valuable report. One of the recommendations from the workshop was the need to practically identify possible innovation spaces where different actors could align their approaches and resources. Phuhlisani NPC was active in the preparation for this workshop and was commissioned to produce a background paper (See annex 1 of the report).
WWF, SANBI and DEDP have since approached Phuhlisani to present a case study session on the Matzikama collaborative planning approach. This will happen in June/July and has potential to open up new opportunities to practically align different extension and natural resource management initiatives in the municipality. Currently there are quite a number of different organisations with relevant projects in Matzikama. Our approach will be to identify possible synergies between them, while also accessing different sources of data for planning.
Extending our communication reach
CBPEP has agreed to host our blog on their website. We are looking forward to seeing our communication footprint expand.
Scoping relevant sources of data to map the local information ecosystem
Work is in progress to design and distribute a Google form to identify data held by different actors which have relevance for land reform planning. This will provide the foundation to examine the feasibility of improving systems and processes for curating relevant information – possibly through a municipal scale data hub.
However, there are many challenges to confront here. Much of the information is confidential or proprietary, suggesting a lack of open data. Even though new sources of information and data can be made available, on their own they will be of little value, unless those involved in planning, programme design and implementation have the capabilities to access, interpret and actively make use of this. This suggests a focus on data and information literacies as a key competency for state officials.
Several challenges are emerging:
Welcome to the first in what hopefully will be a series of weekly updates published for the duration of the project. Each member of the team completes a custom-designed Google form at the end of each working week which enables us to monitor and report on progress. Our aim is to publish blog updates which reveal how we have planned our work, and which highlights key questions, challenges and strategic issues as they arise.
All sorts of things have been on the go in Weeks 18 and 19.
Developing a farmer profiling form
Nationally the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is involved in the ongoing registration of farmers and agricultural producers. This activity is being carried out in partnership with Stats SA. However, access to the data collected during the registration process is restricted. This poses several questions for land reform and agricultural planning at local municipality scale which involves multiple actors:
In the meantime, Phuhlisani NPC has been able to obtain a blank copy of the farmer/producer registration form which is being used as the basis for the national registration process. We have created a version of that form (with some adjustments) to use as part of a farmer profiling activity in Matzikama. A PDF version of the blank form can be downloaded here.
In Week 19 we ran some test interviews with small producers in Matzikama. Farmer profiling forms part of the ‘know the farmer’ methodology which we are conceptualising as a foundational element of the land reform and local agricultural planning process.
In a recent post on the Zimbabweland blog, land and livelihoods researcher Ian Scoones has been cautioning against the promises of ‘silver bullet’ technical/farming system solutions arguing that “a more systems perspective that appreciates the complex performance of farming is urgently needed” – one that recognises diversity and is premised on multiple pathways to sustainability. Some of the core idea behind such an approach are summarised in a recent Steps Centre explainer: What are pathways to sustainability? This suggests that identifying multiple pathways forms a key part of strategy. These pathways need to be identified by listening to different voices, recognising people’s values, understanding their livelihoods, the landscapes they operate in and the uncertainties they face. This requires a shift from expert analytic based approaches to those which draw on different methods which are participatory and deliberative.
Figure 1 Screen grab from STEPSCentre video
The ‘know the farmer’ approach starts by trying to assemble diverse portraits of those currently involved in agricultural production at different scales and with different objectives. It also has to find a way to identify and profile people who are not currently producing and lack any access to land.
This aims to provide a foundation for more interactive processes to identify appropriate options and explore different pathways. However, it is clear that there remains a huge gap between the types of processes and approaches advocated here and the difficult realities on the ground. The approach is premised on a degree of flexibility which state institutions, policies and support mechanisms are often unable to entertain. Part of our challenge is to explore possibilities and innovations with potential to narrow this gap.
Other issues arising from interviews and meetings with both small and larger scale commercial farmers include:
We have made a start with a preliminary mapping of the different sources of information and data on land and agriculture in Matzikama. Our aim is begin to put together a data catalogue and to share information about who has what data and the extent to which this is open and shareable.
Figure 2: Mapping the land related information ecosystem
Getting our blog up on the CBPEP website
We have received a green light from the CBPEP programme to host this blog. We are investigating ways to be able to easily update persons sitting on the project reference group and the different stakeholder forums and to try to extend some of the learnings generated by the process more widely.
More next week.
Today a well attended initial Project Steering Committee (PSC) meeting brought together a range of institutional actors who will provide oversight and advice for the duration of the project.
The PSC is chaired by Najwah Edries - Head of the Jobs Fund.
The committee comprises:
Prof Ben Cousins, team leader during the first phase of the project provided an overview of key findings and recommendations of the first phase research which was conducted in four local municipalities and which combined a range of thematic and commodity studies. All the the research outputs from Phase 1 can be found on the CBPEP website.
David Mayson from Phuhlisani NPC who is heading up Phase 2 of the initiative to develop an applied methodology for collaborative local area land reform planning, provided an overview of the pilot. He provided insights into the methodology, phasing and principal deliverables. He emphasised that the effectiveness of the planning process will depend heavily on ensuring active and collaborative support from the relevant government departments and the Matzikama local municipality. At the same time, it is essential that smallholder producers are directly engaged and involved, together with civil society organisations which support them, as well as larger scale commercial farmers and agribusinesses in the local municipality.
Overall the process has to recognise that each individual, department and organisation has their own priorities, assumptions and understandings of land reform and what must be done to develop an effective plan. The process presents 'wicked' information and data management challenges. Currently each department collects data, as does the private sector, so it will be important for us to map the data ecosystem in Matzikama, examining who collects what and who has access to which information, assessing the extent to which data is open or restricted. This will also entail thinking through how information systems might work better to share essential information to better plan and monitor programmes and assess their impact.
In addition to the PSC, the project will engage with an existing national platform of stakeholders focused on land and land reform and a local platform will be established within the Matzikama municipality. The meeting noted that with municipal elections scheduled for October there was a likelihood that this space could become a vehicle for local political struggles, as control of the municipality was closely contested.
While these structures and their optimal alignment are important, the core of the work will have a much lower level of visibility as we engage directly with producers on the ground, and make the linkages between diverse actors. Overall, the months ahead will provides important insights into what it will take to put in place conditions leading to meaningful collaboration and which results in traction at the levels of policy and practice. This may involve critically examining current processes of accountability which remain largely vertical, to see whether there is scope for alternative horizontal systems which promote lateral accountability for mutual benefit.
In the work to be carried out before the project closes out in February 2022, Phuhlisani has opted for a learning process approach, placing a premium on effective communication. The PSC endorsed the compilation of a project blog. Members of the PSC requested that blog updates be emailed to them directly as there was quite a significant interval between each PSC meeting.
A full record of the meeting proceedings will be available shortly.