News / Africa

Afrikaner Farmers Migrating to Georgia

South African farmer Piet Kemp inspecting baby corn in Sartichala, Georgia, July 28, 2011.
South African farmer Piet Kemp inspecting baby corn in Sartichala, Georgia, July 28, 2011.
James Brooke

A South African court on September 12 convicted Julius Malema, president of the African National Congress Youth League, of hate speech for singing "shoot the Boer, kill the Boer" at a rally last year. But some Boers (white South African farmers) say they have had enough of violence and racial tension in South Africa and are planning to move out. VOA's James Brooke visited one Afrikaner who started farming this year in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

Piet Kemp's family farmed in southern Africa for three centuries. But now at age 66, this Afrikaner farmer has traded South Africa's Eastern Transvaal for Eastern Georgia. Here, he is reviving wheat and corn production on what was once a Soviet collective farm. Kemp says he has no regrets.

"I have a new life here," he explained. "I try to make friends with all the people in Georgia, learning their culture. I have been here since 3rd of March, and I have not heard of one murder in Georgia in this time. I didn't hear about any bank robbery. I didn't hear about any one hijacking."

It was not just high crime rates that prompted Kemp to leave South Africa. 

"There is no security of land, absolutely no security of land in South Africa," he stressed.

Kemp said that over the last decade he successfully helped hundreds of white farmers hold on to their farmland in face of legal challenges from black farm workers and squatters.  But now, he says white farmers face threats of farm seizures by ANC Youth League President Julius Malema and other politicians.

"With a youth leader like Malema, he can go up and stand and say to anyone I want this land for South Africa, for the future of South Africa," noted Kemp. "He can take just what he wants. For me, I just say no."

The Bill of Rights in South Africa’s 1996 post-apartheid constitution protects land ownership rights, stipulating restitution for land that is redistributed.  This law, defenders say, has limited land expropriations.  A two-thirds vote in parliament is needed to change the constitution, a majority the ruling ANC does not have.

Georgia is playing on these insecurities, actively recruiting Afrikaner farmers to help revive the nation's moribund agriculture. In the 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, half of Georgia's farmland has gone out of production.

"They have done exceptionally great job over the years in South Africa, and to give them an opportunity to do the same thing here and for Georgian farmers to learn from the experience they will receive from their new neighbors, from the South African farmers," said Georgia's Canada-educated Economy Minister, Vera Kobalia.

Kobalia praises Sandra Roelofs, the Dutch-born wife of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, for promoting the program.  Dutch is the mother language of Afrikaans.

"It helped in terms of making them feel more secure in Georgia," Kobalia noted.  "There is definitely that connection, the Holland connection in Georgia."

South African farmer Piet Kemp inspects grain seed in Sartichala, Georgia, July 28, 2011.
South African farmer Piet Kemp inspects grain seed in Sartichala, Georgia, July 28, 2011.
Kemp says that Georgia's Dutch-speaking first lady impressed a visiting group of Afrikaner farmers last year.

"Sandra, she was touring a week with us," said Kemp.  "We pick[ed] grapes together. We spoke Netherlands."

Kemp is a devout Protestant and feels a strong connection to Georgia's overwhelmingly Christian Orthodox population.

"We believe in the same thing, believe in the same God," said Kemp.

Kemp says he and other Afrikaner pioneers feel welcome. But Mariam Jorjadze, who runs a farmers' aid organization, worries that the 10 Afrikaner families here now could lead to a big influx of foreign farm directors. As in the Soviet days, Georgian farmers could again be reduced to laborers on big industrial farms.

"If the trend will be many South Africa farmers coming and there will tendency to convert people in rural areas again into labor force for foreign investors, I don't think that this system is viable. It resembles the former Soviet system," said Jorjadze.

Kemp believes that Afrikaners will help jump start Georgian agriculture. But he cautions that they must integrate into Georgian society.

"We must go into Georgia as Georgians - in Georgian culture, in Georgian language - so that they see us as Georgians, not as South Africans coming to Georgia," Kemp explained.

Kemp adds that he does not want his new life in Georgia to be like his old life in South Africa, where he was part of a successful minority envied by the majority population.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs