CAPE TOWN, April 21 — Academics from Brazil, China and South Africa are gathering at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) here this week to focus on transformation in global food systems.
The conference is aimed at examining the role of the three countries in transforming the agricultural systems in the African, South American and South East Asian regions.
Hosted by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), the symposium focuses on agrarian land reform policies within the BRICS bloc and the need to increase food production. The BRICS members are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Researchers say South Africa, Brazil and China are at the forefront of transforming the agricultural systems of the countries around them.
The conference has heard that although the number of commercial farms in South Africa has decreased from some 60,000 in 1996 to just 35,000 last year, there is no threat to national food security. Land ownership in the country, however, remains a major challenge.
Ben Cousins from PLAAS at the University of the Western Cape said Monday that farming was still in the hands of the minority.
“Farming continues to be very concentrated in the hands of very small numbers of mostly white people and this makes people very angry because the long history of injustice, of land dispossession has not been addressed by our government,” he added.
“Unfortunately land reform policies at the moment are benefitting a small number of emergent black business people and white farmers, rather than the rural poor. I don’t think this is politically sustainable.”
Sergio Sauer from the University of Brasilia said: “What we are trying to do is see how the governments and also the firms and private investments are competing or co-operating in deepening these land concentration.
“This monoculture system will impact negatively on our national economies like losing ground but then also how communities are being dispossessed or exploited by those enterprises.”
Delegates are expected to meet small-scale farmers producing crops for local markets at the end of the four-day conference.