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Environmental Law 4 - Farm Owners Questions

  • Can I plough up more land?
  • Can I build more stock watering dams?
  • May I irrigate my lands?
  • May I conduct industrial activities on my farm?

The nation’s agricultural resources are protected through a number of Acts. These Acts place restrictions on what is permissible on agricultural land, help guide agricultural practices, and indicate for which activities one requires consent. Inter alia, the following Acts apply:

  1. The Agricultural Pests Act, 1983 (Act 36 of 1983)
  2. The Genetically Modified Organisms Act, 1997 (Act 15 of 1997)
  3. The National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998)
  4. The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983 (Act 43 of 1983).

The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983 (CARA), is arguably the most applicable to all agricultural enterprises. This Act provides for control over the utilization of the natural agricultural resources of the Republic in order to promote the conservation of the soil, the water sources and the vegetation and the combating of weeds and invader plants; and for matters connected therewith. Some of the regulations pertaining to this Act are summarized below.

No land user shall, except on authority of a written permission by the relevant department:

  1. Cultivate any virgin soil
  2. Cultivate any land if has a slope of more than 20 per cent
  3. Utilise the vegetation in a vlei, marsh or water sponge or within the flood area of a water course or within 10 metres horizontally outside flood area in a manner that causes or may cause the deterioration of or damage to the natural agricultural resources.
  4. Drain or cultivate any vlei, marsh or water sponge or a portion thereof on his farm unit.
  5. Cultivate any land on his farm unit within the flood area of a water course or within 10 metres horizontally outside the flood area of a water course
  6. divert any run-off water from a water course on his farm unit to any other water course
  7. exceed the number of animals, expressed as large stock units, kept on the veld of his farm unit to more than the number that is obtained by dividing the area of the veld of the farm unit concerned, expressed in hectares, by the applicable grazing capacity as determined by the relevant authority
  8. leave exposed lands fallow Every land user shall by means of as many measures set out in Regulations pertaining to CARA (1985 & 2001) as are necessary in his situation:
  9. effectively restore or reclaim the land on his farm unit on which excessive soil loss due to erosion occurs or has occurred protect the cultivated land on his farm unit effectively against excessive soil loss as a result of erosion through the action of water and wind. A directive may be issued to any land owner that does not comply with the regulations as set out in CARA, which can lead to legal action. The applicable information and forms can be sourced from the Department of Agriculture at Cedara, land use section.

In terms of weeds and invader plants (both exotic and indigenous), such plants have been identified in Regulations pertaining to CARA (1985 & 2001) and assigned categories (1 – 3) based on their problem status. Many of the species we see around us everyday are in fact problem plants – in the Natal Midlands almost every tree you see in the landscape is an invader species! Land owners are obliged by law to eradicate these species.

Specific regulations govern the use and management of these species, and this will be the topic of next month’s article.

The author will not be held responsible for misinterpretation of the law, and strongly recommends that readers consult their local DAEA branch for clarification.

  1. Afzelia Environmental Consultants cc
  2. Tel: +27(0) 31 303 2835
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  Tel: +27 (31) 303 2835
  Fax: +27 (86) 692 2547
  Map »
  Tel: +27 (31) 303 2835
  Fax: +27 (86) 692 2547
  Map »