This morning I read the announcement by the Director General of Rural Development and Land Reform, Thozi Gwanya, that small and rural farmers should revert to the proven method of ploughing with oxen. My first response was “oh, come on! This is 2010!!!”. While making coffee to recover from my initial shock I started to doubt my own response.
Why my initial shock? Well, it seems like going backwards to return to such an age-old method. But then, I have also
visited several rural farms where land transfers are taking place, where farmers were sitting on un-used lands because they were waiting for a ‘tractor’ contractor. The same happens with small farmers supported by several municipalities. So in these cases, using oxen to plough would already be a step in the right direction. However, then the Director General motivates this advice on the basis that using a tractor to till a small piece of land will emit to many gases. I am not so sure that many poor farmers would just give up farming with a tractor on this argument alone….
Furthermore, the news article makes reference is made to India. Well, I have seen farmers ploughing with oxen in Thailand and Indonesia as well. As long as they can keep their production costs below market prices, I guess it is worth pursuing. A huge visible difference between Southern Africa and Asia is that farmers in Asia seem to get by with extremely little government support, agricultural extension and modern farming equipment.
OK, so now that I have my cup of coffee in my hands I am willing to reconsider my initial response. Perhaps the Director General should have said “instead of waiting on someone else, use oxen!”.
Can any of the readers of this blog with more experience in rural development perhaps comment or contribute on this issue?