The systematic failure of post-settlement support in South African land reform has been identified as a major contributing variable to the approximated 50 percent failure rate of new land reform projects. In spite of this dismal record, government increasingly finds itself under immense political pressure to speed up land reform efforts in order to meet preconceived reform targets, and have embarked on the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) for this purpose. It therefore becomes imperative that post-settlement support be prioritized if the failure rate of land reform is to be reversed. Without systematic and comprehensive post transfer support it is highly unlikely that most land reform projects will succeed in improving the quality of life of participants and make significant contributions towards transformation in rural South Africa.
Sharing the concerns of many key stakeholders in the Land Reform programme, The Rural Action Committee of Mpumalanga (TRAC-MP) launched the Mpumalanga Management and Mentorship Pilot Programme (MMMPP) in January 2003. By working on six diverse land reform projects, the MMMPP sought to develop experience and lessons in post transfer support strategies that could be shared with policy makers and shareholders to develop appropriate policies and programmes. Staff working on the MMMPP made significant inputs on the Mentorship Policy approved by the National Department of Agriculture in support of their Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) in 2005.
In 2006, TRAC-MP embarked on the “Mentorship Lead Programme” with the aim of strengthening the ability of the Provincial Department of Agriculture to provide the necessary support to land reform projects during their post-transfer phase. This project can be seen as bridging the gap between policy at a national level and implementation support at a Provincial level. Therefore it is envisaged that the Mentorship Lead Programme will significantly contribute towards the ability of the Provincial Department of Agriculture to provide the range and depth of support activities necessary to ensure that land reform projects indeed have a positive impact on the transformation objective in rurual Mpumalanga and South Africa as a whole.
The Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture and Land Administration has since entered into an agreement with TRAC-MP in connection with the Mentorship Lead Programme, where both parties have agreed to work together in order to plan and develop an effective and comprehensive post-settlement support structure aimed at land reform projects with commercial farming objectives through the Mentorship Lead Programme. By incorporating research done and lessons learned during the MMMPP project, and by focussing on roughly 24 land reform cases in Mpumalanga, The Mentorship Lead Programme aims to develop a model and system for post-settlement support that could eventually be extended throughout the province and hopefully act as a useful point of departure for future national and provincial policy on this subject.
It was through TRAC-MP's experience with the MMMPP project that two high-priory constraints were identified to post-settlement success, namely problems related to market access as well as problems with securing production capital. With the initiation of the Mentorship Lead Programme, TRAC-MP therefore approached the Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) to co-undertake strategic research on these constraints in order to formulate strategic recommendations that could be incorporated into the Mentorship Lead Programme.