Agricultural reform needs PALS
PALS (Partners in Agri Land Solution) was started by farmers in the Ceres valley in cooperation with surrounding communities. This private-sector initiative is based on sound business principles, solid legal structures, mentorship and training of emerging farmers to become successful commercially. Endorsed by AgriSA, AFASA, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Western Cape Department of Agriculture the PALS framework is recognized as a true manifestation of the National Development Plan 2030.
Agrisell spoke to national public liaison officer Lennox Plaatjies about PALS.
1. What does PALS 'sell'?
PALS is "selling" the idea of stopping to wait for others. We lead the change we want to see in our country by establishing cooperative partnerships between black and white agricultural entrepreneurs. Additionally, the PALS Centre aims to operate as a "one-stop-shop" enabling land reform and agricultural development to ensure economic growth, job creation and enhanced social cohesion.
2. What funding do you offer and how are you funded?
None. PALS is not a funding organization. We are a non-profit company relying on membership fees, donors and sponsors to run our operations.
3. You offer training to a range of people from high school learners to directors and shareholders. Tell us more about the 'business skills' training you provide.
One PALS objective is to establish successful commercial black farmers, who are entrepreneurs in their own right. To achieve this, our training and skills development programmes develop the business side of our new-era farmers. The training includes modules on responsible leadership, mentorship and understanding finances in farming.
4. What kind of support for small enterprises does PALS provide?
PALS facilitates the establishment of agricultural enterprises where black and white partners have co-ownership and work together to make it successful and sustainable. We also assist partners by creating a supportive environment through motivations for funding and other enablers from various avenues, including the State for water permits, subdivisions, electricity supply and so forth.
5. You provide "continuous training regarding processes and procedures" - tell us more about this?
PALS has a legal and strategic services department which specialises in putting together structures for partnerships. This includes the legal arrangements for shareholding and management, for example.
Training includes regularly updating and empowering all PALS role-players in the legal structures, processes and procedures applicable to their PALS entities.
6. PALS work with universities to develop new training; what is in the pipeline?
PALS training and development programmes are informed by the practical skills and expertise needed within the commercial farming space. We use local expertise and focus on every region's local conditions to develop the core business skills and expertise needed for that area. For example, PALS has entered an MOU with the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) to develop a leadership and mentorship programme. The first training has already been delivered to 35 entrepreneurs from our Witzenberg PALS enterprises in the Ceres area of the Western Cape. Now, we are working with the Universities of the North West and the Free State to establish similar training in other PALS regions.
7. How do you see agriculture change in future?
For inclusive economic growth within the agricultural sector, we need investment in agri-smart technology and innovations, such as vertical farming, aquaponics and regenerative agriculture. In addition, the agricultural industry needs to pay more attention to its impact on climate change, invest in climate change mitigation strategies and promote gender equality.
8. What is the biggest need in agriculture to future-proof our food supply?
We believe there should be a supportive environment for agriculture. This must include clear and aligned policies, the safety of farming investments and farmers, development and maintenance of infrastructure (e.g. roads, electricity) and investment in bulk water and irrigation infrastructure.
9. If PALS could run the national portfolio of agriculture, what changes would you suggest/implement?
PALS has already made a submission to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) about the need to establish a Coordinating Agency for Land and Agricultural Development (CALAD). CALAD can become a medium through which the private sector can positively contribute towards policy-making and to monitor the agricultural growth initiatives in land reform and related programmes. To promote inclusive growth within the agricultural sector, we need to see increased utilisation of economic incentives and a recognition mechanism for commercial farmers who choose to donate a portion of their land for land reform purposes.
Author Marinda Louw Coetzee