District assessments

Issue 7 2021 Agriculture (Industry), Security Services & Risk Management

The ongoing and escalating attacks against the farming community in South Africa have reached a stage of regularity that is totally unacceptable. It is obvious that the Police cannot handle the situation. Organised agriculture and some NGOs have also had limited success, the main emphasis being placed on assisting and supporting the Police and Judiciary to secure convictions.

Laurence Palmer.

I have the perception that very little is actually being done to be pro-active and not only prevent the attacks, but to empower the farmer to be able to successfully protect his property, family and workers and ward off any attack that is launched.

A group of concerned citizens have come up with a proposed plan that they believe, if implemented, will fill this gap in the farming community’s arsenal and will restrict and even eliminate, farm attacks. The individuals are senior citizens with many years of police, military and security experience, both within and outside the borders of the country.


A disturbingly large number of farm attacks are committed without the farmer or his family having the time or opportunity to call for help or back-up. Reaction to an attack is too late and we must be able to prevent an attack, or, at least meet it head-on.

The concept of a risk assessment is not new and many security experts are familiar with it. However, the process must be followed through to the implementation of the conclusions, or else it is a waste of time. One of the main restrictions to the finalisation of this process is finance. Security is expensive to acquire in the first place and even more so to maintain its effectiveness on a continuous basis.

One of the most effective ways to save costs is to spread them over a number of target facilities. This will not only spread some of the more expensive security elements, but will, in a number of cases, be more effective because the security element is utilised over a greater distance and time. Expensive security elements, such as control and surveillance centres, area patrols, use of drones, rapid reaction forces and CCTV surveillance, can be spread over a number of entities in the region to cut costs.

The basic idea is to perform an in-depth risk assessment of a selected semi-independent region. The area selection will depend on the number of farms in the area surrounding the hub – community centre, village, or town.

The Risk Assessment will be conducted outwards from the inside (the Hub) in layers, think of onion rings, assessing the risks of the region as a whole until it completes the process at each outlying farm in the region.

The process is also referred to, in military circles, as the Oil Spot Strategy. You deal with the high priority areas first, fix them and move on to the lower priority areas until the whole area or region has been cleared. The secured area will spread naturally to the other areas, like an ‘oil spot’. The concept can also be likened to the British military’s Win the Hearts and Minds Strategy.

The final result will be a pro-active security plan that identifies all probable threats and countermeasures to these, which in turn will ensure the safety and security of all the farmers, their families, property and assets in the targeted region.

The emphasis has to be on community. All community organisations, NGOs, businesses, formal security services, police services, the farmers, the domestic servants, farm workers and other role players, have to be part of the processes and support the effort. Their experience and local knowledge is vital to the success of the project.


1. An in-depth security assessment of the whole region, including towns, villages, informal settlements, farms and public infrastructure, public open spaces etc. is the basis for an integrated security plan for the region.

2. The deliverables of the assessment will be the collection and collation of detailed information, related to any situation or set of circumstances that can and does, leave the community vulnerable to attack, resulting in death and injury to persons and damage and destruction of infrastructure and property.

3. All role players and key individuals will be interviewed and their input included when the deliberations are made and conclusions are reached. This includes the SA Police, Metro Police, civil authorities, established security companies, business, local chiefs and indunas, union bosses, farm labour, domestic labour, the farmers and their families.

4. The Assessment will highlight all the identified risks and these will be assessed and the potential risk to the region and its people evaluated.

5. This information will be applied to all possible solutions, which will then be collated and prioritised to create an integrated proactive security plan.

6. The security plan will be developed in such a way as to provide proactive solutions that will not only attempt to prevent an attack in the first place, but also to minimise its effect if it does take place and to create a situation that will result in the apprehension and conviction of the attackers.

Influencing factors

Obviously, the assessment can only be carried out and be successful with the full co-operation of all the role players in the region. The team will need authentication and introduction from the local farmers organisation and/or other leaders in the community such as the chamber of business, etc.

The full buy-in and co-operation of the farmers in the region is paramount, as they are the prime target of the effort. The team will also require the authority and support of the farmers in order to commence the process and conduct the assessment.

The team will need to be resident in the area in order to make maximum use of available time and in order to keep costs to a minimum.

Separate from the finance that will be required to give effect to the plan, i.e. physical infrastructure, electronic infrastructure, manpower and maintenance, the conducting of the assessment and development of the plan will cost money. There will be travelling, accommodation, meals etc. and the time required to compile and present the final plan. Time will also be required for research into the available equipment, particularly electronic support equipment and supplementary physical security infrastructure. A budget will be presented for approval and a decision regarding the sourcing of funds will need to be taken.

The ideal situation will be to select a trial region that can be assessed as effectively and efficiently as possible. This will be used as a bench mark project and can be held up as an indication of the potential success of the project as a whole.

The success or otherwise of this project can see the process being rolled out over further selected (identified priority) regions and eventually across the whole country.

This article is the opinion of the author and is based on the latest information available and his previous and current efforts to prevent farm attacks. For more information, contact Laurence Palmer, +27 73 954 4450, [email protected]

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