Agriculture in Southern Africa
by Clifford Deale
Dr. Mick Gammon wrote the following in the magazine The Rhosarian (October 2009): “The first white hunters, traders and missionaries who in the 19th century came to the region which was to become Rhodesia and subsequently Zimbabwe, found a land devoid of infrastructure. The wheel was not yet in use. Early travellers recorded travelling often for days without seeing any human habitation. Commercial farming started in the 1890’s on what was for the most part virgin land. There were no roads or railways, there was no electricity or telephone, there were no fences, boreholes, pumps, windmills, dams, or irrigation schemes; there were no cattle dips, barns or other farm buildings.
These first commercial farmers had to discover how to contend with predators that killed their livestock plus other animals that consumed their crops and how to control diseases, pests and parasites of livestock and crops that were foreign to them. From this starting point, agriculture developed faster than it had anywhere else in the world.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Year Book of 1975 ranked the then Rhodesia second in the world in terms of yields of maize, wheat, soya beans and ground nuts, and third for cotton. In the combined ranking for all these crops, Rhodesia ranked first in the world.
Rhodesia’s Virginia tobacco was rated the best in the world in yield and quality, while maize entries in world championships were consistently placed in the first three slots. The world’s largest single citrus producer was developed early in the country’s history.
Rhodesia was the world’s second largest exporter of flue-cured tobacco. This together with exports of maize, soya beans, cotton, sugar, coffee, tea, fruit, vegetables, flowers and beef made agriculture the major source of foreign currency. Agriculture contributed more to the gross domestic product than any other industry. It was the largest employer of labor, providing employment for about a third of the total labor force.”
The story of the effect these farmers had on the social welfare of their labor and beyond is nothing less than inspiring. But the cultural deficiencies of those who wanted power at all costs, so clearly outlined in the Forum for Food Security mentioned above, destroyed the breadbasket of Africa. These same “cultural deficiencies” are evident in South Africa’s ruling elite, and if food security in South Africa is to be preserved, agricultural production must remain in the hands of SA’s commercial farmers. There is no other way to preserve food security. No other way!