It has been estimated that more 60% of emerging farmers in South Africa were aware of existing government regulations protecting the environment but knew little of the associated implications.
Dominant regulations affecting emerging farmers production and economic progress were Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Conservation of Agriculture Resource Act and the Water Users License Authorisation.
A study on the implications of EIA on emerging farmers in the Overberg Municipality conducted by Weskaap Agriculture and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture indicate that regulations such as the EIA have affected the expansion of emerging farmers enterprises.
“EIA regulations have restricted the planning of new enterprises, affecting their production levels. This has resulted in a decrease in crop yields and farmers could not increase their grazing capacity due to the restriction of the production levels” said the research study.
At a recent Eastern Cape livestock farmer have expressed frustrations on the process of EIA applications.
“It’s been 2 years I have been waiting for this EIA all the while I am missing out on market opportunities. I have already missed out on two off take agreements” said Nomathemba Langa a piggery farmer from Brits in North West.
To expand operations and apply for credit, farmers had to furnish an EIA license as it was a bank mandatory requirement. To conduct an EIA, it could cost an emerging farmer anything between R100 000 – R300 000.
The provincial departments of agriculture were responsible for funding EIA’s allowing companies appointed by a farmer to conduct the assessment, and thereafter only then could the department of environment, forestry and fisheries (DEFF) issue a farmer with an EIA license.
Gauteng and the Western Cape agriculture were the only two provinces that assisted farmers in accessing grants for EIA. Calls for EIA applications were announced and communicated to farmers well on time.
“Where in the world would I get R220 000 as an emerging farmer to pay an EIA company to conduct an assessment on my farm” said another farmer from Mpumalanga.
The reason Gauteng and Western Cape were partly efficient in assisting farmers with EIA was due to the environmental function being resourced with the requisite skills and knowledge. Other provinces seemingly did not enjoy such a benefit.
EIA regulations while important for biodiversity and sustainable farming practices, left emerging farmers out in the cold.
“When farmers complete the application for the EIA process, it can take up to 12-18 months depending on the triggered listed activities and this can lead to seasonal losses for farmers” said the research report.
The more emerging farmers emerged, strenuous and complicated processes or procedures would be seemingly imposed. These regulations when amended are also not adequately explained to farmers. “Government officials also get confused with these EIA’s; a simple question can lead to an indefinite incommunicado. Building capacity for us and officials can go a long way to ensure we cut the length of time in waiting to receive funds and a license” said the two farmers.