Subsistence farming and the land issue in SA
24 September 2018
Anthroposophy also gives us concepts about economics, the Threefold Social Order and so on. Practical Anthroposophy, as I described in my previous article and in my view, is that we can link these concepts given to us by Anthroposophy to any daily issue that encounters us. In this article, I wish to link the current topical land issue being debated in South Africa, expropriation without compensation, with the economic concepts around subsistence farming. This matter, as you will discover, is critical to a sound resolution to the land question, not only in South Africa, but internationally also. The concepts around any legislation in this regard need to be very sound or they will lead to something unexpected. I also ask that you refer to my article The land and means of production ownership question, as well as Releasing Africa from Economic stagnation – a key element. So, let’s see what we discover.
In what we can call the nature economy, there is no transfer of value.
A cow will craze the grass but only repay to nature from the nature of what the cow is and does for the environment without any consciousness at all. A sparrow will build a nest from the products of nature and will repay the nature environment only from what the sparrow is to nature as part of nature. There is no exchange between the various parts of nature to each other. A leopard will eat a buck, a buck will have eaten grass and drunk water from the river. This is the nature economy. There is no conscious exchange and therefore no need for a means of exchange. There is no perception of value between transactions within nature. The human being can partake in this nature economy and in fact does, but these types of transactions never enter what we know as our economy. As I have previously described and repeat here for the sake of having the concepts necessary for the question that I am trying to address in this article, human beings, when they do things for themselves or their families do not enter the real economy that we talk of today . When one person chops firewood for themselves or their family, they never bring the wood to market and so receive nothing, not even a bartered good, in return. This is being strictly described in an economic sense. When a person chops firewood and uses some for personal use but takes the excess to market, this excess becomes part of the economy.
Moving on now, we take subsistence farming and can easily see that the produce of this piece of land goes to the family. The food that they grow is for themselves. They are fed from this, but they remain outside of the economy. Where national land policies dictate in concept that people need small pieces of land so that they can at least not starve, they are of course correct, but, from only one perspective. The perspective that they are missing is that all this land allocated in this way will remain outside of the economy. The human efforts invested in subsistence farming are considerable. It is hard work. In subsistence farming areas, everyone learns very similar basic skills, especially if one crop dominates. In these areas we have people growing maize for example or tomatoes. They all do the same. They all eat the same, they all have no part in the economy as they are all working really hard doing the same things for themselves. The moment that someone decides to produce for another, his labour enters the economy. For subsistence farming to turn into what we call commercial farming where crops are grown for others to consume, the land policy needs to take into account the size of the erven available to individuals.
Having recently done an overland trip from Johannesburg to Kenya, it is quite clear that subsistence farming is a huge part of African culture. African people work much harder than Western people but a large part of their efforts are invested in taking care of themselves. Only excess produce goes to market. It is going to be a difficult task to untangle land policies that give a little bit to each person. Farming needs larger areas that can be cultivated by a skilled and dedicated farmer for all those in the area. Others in the area must do something else for their neighbours. In this way their efforts will lead their energies into the economy. In my view, any policy on land ownership or distribution needs to bear the issues around subsistence farming into account. On the one hand, subsistence farming keeps people fed and alive, but on the other hand, it keeps this area and the people living in this area substantially out of the economy. A land policy should consider these concepts given to us by Anthroposophy. Perhaps subsistence farming areas should be allowed in selected areas to enable the destitute to feed themselves. Within these areas there could be specific training offerings that would assist those that could work their way out of this destitution, and these would be offered of course by the Liberty sphere people who are best suited to understand and care for the humanity of these people in the right way. After all, the larger the piece of national productive land under subsistence farming, the less economy, the less tax and the less chance of a sustainable way out. Unitary Governments will never solve these problems. There has to be a shift towards three spheres of Government, three focus areas of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality, all working for one thing and that is that society as a whole turns holistically. The three elements are critical in their own slant and independence but they need to want the others to be the same so that the whole turns. Any one out of balance or with too much or too little influence will hurt the viability of the whole. Land polices, built on incomplete concepts, can lead to a handicap that will slow that nation down for decades if not more. We can think today. Let’s engage this in ourselves. Let’s let the liberty sphere want this in our schools so that things can move forward. Let governments start to consider the possibility or need to restructure themselves into Tri-cameral type setups that allow specialisation of the three spheres for the sake of the common goal of human dignity and well-being.