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News24.com | Agric sector: With Prof Karaan’s passing we have lost one of our greatest leaders

Professor Mohammad Karaan had the ability to bridge the gap between government and agribusiness, black and white farmers, and smallholder and commercial farmers, industry leaders and economists said in a tribute


In the untimely passing on 13 January 2021 of Professor Mohammad Karaan, the South African food, agriculture, agribusiness, land reform, forestry fisheries and rural development sectors have lost one of its greatest leaders.

We express our deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues, companies and institutions where he worked.

Over the course of his distinguished life – Mohammad touched, shaped and directed the lives and careers of many people, students, professionals, business and political leaders within and outside the agriculture sector and institutions.

His own professional life and career was forged, among others, at the Development Bank of Southern Africa in the early 1990s – whose authority, leaders, and experts including the Centre of Policy Analysis –  contributed considerably to establish a lifelong link of Mohammad to the leadership of the post-apartheid South African government and the shaping of its land and agriculture policies.

He has known all the Ministers and Director Generals of the National Departments Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development – which he advised one way or another – and had himself also been touted, on more than one occasion, as a possible Minister or Director General when Cabinet appointments were to be made or when Director General posts were to be filled.

Prof Karaan co-authored the South African National Development Plan, which in 2011 set the daunting task that by the 2030 South Africa should have no poverty, effectively employment for all and on route to equitable income, wealth and opportunities. He went on to serve two terms as a member of the National Planning Commission, and was appointed a member of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture in 2018.  

In 2008, he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences at the University of Stellenbosch and acting Vice-Rector at the University in 2014.

Professor Karaan championed the cause of agriculture in various government institutions and committees – which includes being the Chairman of the National Agricultural Marketing Council, a member of the Agricultural Research Council, and a Board member of the Land and Agricultural Bank of South Africa. 

He also provided visionary leadership to numerous private companies, which includes serving as the Chairman of a multi-billion rand fishing company, Terrasan Group and its subsidiaries Aqunion, Blue Oceans Mussels, Marifeed and Saldanha Protein, and serving on the board of companies such as Quantum Foods, Pioneer Foods, SSK, Kaap Agri amongst others.

He also farmed in the Overberg District, demonstrating that he can manage and execute his own policy advice and integrate with the farming community.

In 2018, Mohammad was appointed as the President of the Maties Rugby Club. His sharp intellect, ready smile and soft voice was not lost in his character as a keen handicap twelve golfer with a mean feather-touch putting game.

He also served as President of the Agricultural Economics Association of Southern Africa (AEASA). In partnership with Cornell University, he established the Making Markets Matter agricultural training programme. The programme has trained over 2 000 agribusinesses throughout Africa. He was engaged in assisting the setting up of the Walter Sisulu University AgriBusiness Centre in Mthatha.  

Mohammad will be remembered for his uncanny ability to unpack complex economic concepts into practical real life issues. Throughout his life, he was able to bridge the gap between Government and Agribusiness, black and white farmers, smallholder and commercial farmers.  Above all, he believed that the future of South African agriculture rests with smallholder farmers.      

Mohammad leaves behind is wife, Basheerad and five children. We extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the Karaan family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them in this most difficult time. 

May his soul rest in eternal peace.  

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