Illustrating the divide

Two events on the outskirts of Pretoria last month, both with an agricultural focus, amply illustrate the inequality and cultural “apartness” that still exists in South African society. For, just north of Onderstepoort, the first iteration of the Agri Gauteng Ekspo was held over three days, ostensibly targeted at emerging and smallholder farmers. Organised by a newly-launched agricultural magazine in conjunction with Agri-SA, the show will hopefully gain identity and focus if it is held in the future, for some of the exhibitors seemingly hadn’t understood who the show was aimed at. What, for example, was a new Afrikaans community radio station named Lekker-FM doing there? Nevertheless, the organisers had arranged a long list of lectures and talks on various aspects of animal husbandry and horticulture clearly aimed at the farmers and smallholders in nearby Soshanguve and Winterveld. These talks, on subjects such as disease prevention, animal nutrition etc, would clearly have appealed to their audience which is, in the main, always hungry for knowledge (although, in our experience many emergent black farmers and smallholders, having grown up rurally growing their own food and surrounded by livestock, are often better informed than they let on). Hopefully, the organisers learnt from their mistakes this year and will be able to attract more, and more suitable exhibitors, to next year’s event, while sticking to their idea of offering free-to-listen talks and lectures to interested visitors. Such exhibitors should include many more providers of equipment, consumables, medications and services especially aimed at smallholders. Thus, unless you are aiming to enter this market seriously, if your current offering comprises only bulk quantities of feed, additives, medication or fertilizer, save your money and stay away. Because smallholders need stuff in small quantities, with packaging, labelling and user instructions that can be easily understood and applied by someone without the need for precision measuring equipment etc (I am pointing here particularly to medication, pesticides and herbicides). Meanwhile on the eastern side of town, the three-day Afrikaner Kragdag jamboree included an agricultural component for the first time. An altogether bigger show than the Agri Gauteng Ekspo, Kragdag was started in 2008 by a group of Afrikaner maplotters in Donkerhoek who became gatvol of the dubious electricity supplied by Eskom, and its price; and resolved to become self-sufficient. With the motto of “doen jou eie ding” the first few shows concentrated on solar energy, renewables and self-sufficiency in various fields, including education (eg, home schooling), security etc. Backed this year by Afrikaner business organisation Sakeliga, the show now is by far the biggest of its kind in Gauteng, especially as it included, from this year, an agricultural wing, run in conjunction with farmers’ organisation TLU SA. Like the show near Onderstepoort, Kragdag and its agri-offshoot featured a comprehensive series of talks and lectures, and comparing the content and focus of the two gives an instructive insight into the differences between black and white (particularly Afrikaans) rural folk, and the inequalities that divide us. For while the Agri Gauteng Ekspo talks were largely geared simply at beginner and aspirant small farmers, much of the focus of the agri talks at Kragdag were aimed at a more experienced, and moneyed, audience. To illustrate this compare, for example, the Onderstepoort Ekspo’s talks entitled Farrowing House Management & Piglet Care with Kragdag’s Biosecurity in the Livestock Industry: Are you ready for a disaster? (In Afrikaans, of course). For all one may think of its seemingly racial exclusivity Kragdag has become a roaring success, both in terms of the number of exhibitors (330 in the Kragkag section and an expected further 165 agri-exhibitors, according to the organisers) and the number of (paying) visitors (more than 21 000 this year). So much so that the organisers should really think seriously about moving it from a plot on the Donkerhoek hillside to a custom-designed showground with easy access, ample parking, show arenas, lecture halls, etc. The Tshwane Exhibition Centre, formerly the Pretoria Showgrounds, comes to mind… But roaring success or not, it’s a pity that the Kragdag expo and the Agri Ekspo, too, are so obviously racially (and economically) exclusive. In the South Africa of today we don’t believe this approach, while it may be the absolute right of the organisers and participants to do so, is the most beneficial way to tackle the problems we all face.