Agricultural Agency doubles down on “unproductive farmers” | 11 June 2019
Eight state-owned farmlands have been taken from “unproductive farmers” since October 2018 as part of the government’s efforts to boost local farm production and ensure that farmlands are used to their fullest potential.
Eleven more farmers are also undergoing different phases of this land repossession process.
The chief executive of the Seychelles Agricultural Agency (SAA), Linetta Estico, revealed that although the agricultural agency removed under-developed lands from farmers in the past, the agency is now putting more emphasis on the need for farmers to develop them well.
This is line with the recent comprehensive plan for agriculture which was adopted by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture in October last year and which has been pushed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
Mrs Estico related that farmers are being encouraged to cultivate and use the farmlands leased from the government at their maximum, particularly in regards to the production of pork and chicken for meat as well as 15 priority crops established for the agricultural sector.
The recently introduced loans and marketing units for farmers are some of the mechanisms being used to encourage farmers to produce more.
Farmers who fail to do so will face the very much real possibility of having their leased land repossessed.
In an exercise undertaken last year to evaluate whether farmlands were being used properly, the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture found that around 40% of agricultural lands were “not being valorised”.
According to Mrs Estico, farmers should aim to develop 100% of their land and use crop-rotation as a means to do so.
Nonetheless, Mrs Estico said that SAA recognises the various challenges local farmers are faced with such as lands that are prone to flooding and lack of road access to farms.
“In these cases, we sit down with these farmers to figure out how we can help them,” Mrs Estico elaborated.
For future agricultural land allocation, the government expects to ensure that all lands have proper road access and basic facilities such as water and electricity before being leased off to farmers.
Farmers with under-developed lands are put on a probation period of three months wherein they are urged to improve their production and farmers who continue to underperform are provided with an additional three-month period.
If there is still no progress, the SAA then files a case against the farmer to the Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, who is the authorised person to sign farmers off their leases.
Following which, the farmer has a 30-day deadline to move his/her assets off the land and in cases of immoveable assets they will be compensated depending on the situation.
Farmers may also appeal to a committee set up for this purpose during these 30 days.
Mrs Estico noted that the repossessions of these lands are not without their complications, particularly since some farmers are left homeless and hence the agency has to seek help from the department of land and housing to assist the farmers.
Meanwhile, the repossessed lands are expected to be put into the agricultural land bank and later tendered out to the interested estimated 137 farmers on SAA’s waiting list.