The agricultural management specialist dr. Jaco de Villiers says South African farmers should be given the opportunity “to make a profit again”.
De Villiers wrote an open letter to, among others, banks, organized agriculture and lawyers after Willie Viljoen, a Western Free State farmer, killed himself this past weekend. The 58-year-old Viljoen farmed just outside Hoopstad with his son, WH. The region has been suffering from drought for some time.
Viljoen sent a message to De Villiers at 08:19 on Saturday, thanking him for his efforts to assist beleaguered farmers. “A quarter past ten (in the morning) he was no longer there,” De Villiers said.
He said difficult questions would have to be asked about the role that institutions such as banks play in the plight of many farmers. “We can’t just blame the natural drought. Do not sue a drought. He makes you lean and he makes you humble. It’s a bank suing. A drought doesn’t sell anyone out, it’s a bank that does it, “De Villiers said.
De Villiers said that after 2018, when the possibility of expropriation without compensation became an increasing problem, there was a “brutal hardening” towards farmers. And while drought continues in many areas, De Villiers warns that many farmers are not just victims of the drought, but also of “profitability”.
He said he just finished the business plan of WVS Agri, a new cooperative in the area, on behalf of farmers from the Bultfontein region. Viljoen was part of this initiative. Farmers, workers and community members are part of the cooperative, which is an effort to create jobs and ensure sustainable profitability for the region.
He also encourages similar co-operatives elsewhere in the country.
De Villiers said they would like to meet with banks and agribusinesses – without a pre-set agenda – on solutions for the industry. “Just talk to us so we have the opportunity to look for a plan together,” he said.
De Villiers said the bond between farmers and consumers should also be strengthened. One way is for consumers to invest directly in farming businesses and become part of the production chain.