24 June 2024: Johannesburg – The milestones that the Barokologadi Communal Property Association (CPA) achieved after having the 26 000 hectares adjacent to the world famous Madikwe Game Reserve in the North-West province returned to them, bucks the widespread narrative of failed land reform programmes. It sticks out as a shining example of what can be achieved when claimant communities work in concert with like-minded partners.

Reports of once productive land lying fallow when it is reallocated to claimant communities often characterise the discourse on the land reform programme. The resounding success achieved by the Barokologadi CPA provides a success template and playbook for failed and yet to be finalised land claims across the country.

The land was allocated to the Barokologadi community following an 11-year battle for the return of their ancestral land. This prime real estate is located in an area known as Melorane which comprises of nine farms bordering the Madikwe Game Reserve.
Upon successfully claim their land, the community established the Barokologadi Communal Property Association (CPA), which is a landholding institution established under law to acquire and manage the beneficiary land on behalf of the community.

Amos Setou, General Manager of the Barokologadi CPA, credits a clear growth plan for the success of this land reform project. “Having a clear plan for the community provided a foundation for the coordinated strategic development efforts that needed to take place on the farm to ensure that the restored land benefitted our people – the Barokologadi ba ga Maotoe community.

When the CPA held its first annual general meeting back in 2007, it took the decision to formulate measured plans on how the community would harness the potential of its restored land, especially given the location of the land adjacent to the Madikwe Game Reserve, one of the biggest nature reserves in the country. “This decision played a big role in the subsequent actions that needed to be taken to solicit resources to kick start projects to help to put the land to use,” Setou says.

To plug the resources and competency gaps, the CPA approached a non-profit organisation assisting communities in land reform, Vumelana Advisory Fund, to assist them in identifying a partner to enable them to begin working on their land. Through Vumelana’s support, the CPA forged a partnership with a non-profit organisation called Elephants, Rhinos & People (ERP) and established the Melorane ERP Game Reserve to unlock the nature conservation and tourism opportunities on their land. Together they have been able to also create entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for the locals.

The Barokologadi CPA is among the 26 land reform beneficiaries that Vumelana has successfully assisted in facilitating partnerships with private investors to enable the community to put their land to productive use and in turn generate profits, create employment, gain access to skills, resources and markets through such partnerships.
Positive outcomes

Setou says that the growth and development plan that the community and the CPA developed outlined clear goals of promoting job creation, income generation, and economic development on the restored land of the Barokologadi ba ga Maotoe community. The community, who are direct descendants of their forebearers who were forcibly ejected from the land in 1950, also identified and arranged potential projects in agriculture, wildlife conservation, leisure, and skills development.

In line with the growth plan, the CPA established a skills development centre in Pitsedisulejang village, the Basebo Training Institute. Since its establishment three years ago, the centre has enrolled 130 young people from the Barokologadi villages and surrounding areas on year-long end-user computing learnership programmes.
The partnership with ERP has also yielded fruits. Through this collaboration, a total of 60 temporary and 25 permanent jobs were created. In addition, a total of 80 temporary job opportunities have been created since 2009.

Post settlement support

In 2009 and 2010, the Barokologadi CPA secured a National Development Agency grant and a Recapitalisation grant, respectively. The post-settlement support has enabled the CPA to fund and kick-start some of its development projects in Melorane. Through the allocation of the grant, the CPA could implement its cattle project and fund the construction of essential infrastructure like erecting fencing, installing electricity, water reticulation, and internal roads in Melorane.

The grants also assisted with the renovation of farmhouses and the purchasing of farm equipment. This initial development of Melorane and the running of the cattle project by BCPA, created temporary and permanent employment opportunities for the community members.

Community upliftment

In addition to driving socio-economic development in Melorane and providing the community with an opportunity to reap the benefits of conservation and eco-tourism, the developments projects also had a trickle-down effect on the community in terms of community upliftment initiatives.

For example, the partnership with ERP saw over 2 000 food parcels being disbursed to households in five surrounding villages as part of the Covid-19 relief programme between 2020 and 2022. More than 300 bicycles were donated to school learners in different Barokologadi schools to facilitate easier transportation to and from school. Moreover, pre-programmed smartphones were donated to grade 11 and 12 Mathematics and Science learners to support their study programmes in 2021 and 2022, while more than 150 pairs of shoes were donated to indigent learners.

Navigating rough seas despite making progress

Setou concedes that though the CPA has made substantial strides in developing the land, the organisation has had to contend with challenges that threatened to derail its work. Co-management agreement and profit sharing was one of the major hurdles, in addition to other disruptive activities such as encroachment by neighbouring community members, legal battles, and disruptive interruptions to their ongoing projects.

Similar to other land reform projects, lack of access to water rights is another major hurdle that threatens the sustainability of major commercial farms.

“We are currently facing another challenge regarding the transfer of the transferable portion of Eerstepoort 136 farm. This particular farm, which was returned to CPA in 2007, has a significant portion occupied by Molatedi Dam. Since 2007, CPA has been actively engaging with the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform as well as the Department of Water and Sanitation to discuss the transfer of the portion that is not occupied by the dam.

“To address this challenge, a detailed letter has been prepared, providing a comprehensive background and explanation of the situation, which will be sent to the Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister,” says Setou.

Looking ahead

Despite these challenges, Setou remains optimistic and says that the success they have achieved thus far motivates them to achieve even greater things. He says that they are not resting on their laurels, and they are looking forward to the next chapter of their success story where they have lined up new and exciting projects.

Some of the projects that are in the pipeline include developing game lodges in Melorane, implementing crop farming projects, initiating more income-generating projects and expanding the skills development projects.

The extraordinary accomplishments achieved at Melorane has not gone unnoticed in the community. “This remarkable accomplishment has aroused a mix of emotions for the elderly, who carry profound memories of the past that can never fade away,” Setou says. As part of the CPA’s commitment to developing ancestral lands in 2009, eight cooperatives made up of over 160 Barokologadi members were formed to launch a first project in Melorane. Over R400 000 was raised by the cooperatives and a sheep and goat project was established, later combined with a cattle project.

error: Content is protected !!