The man recognised as the ‘father of India’s green revolution’, Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, said if agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will go right. Farmers’ well-being must be at the centre of all programmes and policies.
Grain SA strives to contribute to the successful development of all farmers participating in the grain industry and to ensure that as much support is afforded farmers as is possible. There is an extensive network of development coordinators, mentors, trainers and administrative support personnel that specifically service developing farmers and are constantly seeking new partners to participate in the development initiatives towards transforming the sector.
During the month of July the team conducted 82 study group visits and 74 farm visits. Farm visits are important mentoring encounters with individual farmers. The topics of discussion include season planning, budgeting, discussions about mechanisation requirements, advice on practical aspects of the farming process and potential income streams off the farm.
Farmers are encouraged to view their farming as fully fledged business enterprises so they must learn about different aspects of business management such as financial management, building a business plan to present to financial institutions, understanding obligations to SARS and managing farm workers fairly. These topics are addressed timeously throughout the year. The mentors also visit the farmers’ fields to check on progress and monitor each critical farming operation to ensure success as far as possible.
These outreach opportunities exist because of our partnerships with various role-players in the industry. The collaboration between the Maize Trust and the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme is one such example that has enabled the building of a solid network able to fast-track information and offer valuable support services to developing grain farmers.
We wish to acknowledge the Maize Trust for its continued support of this initiative and would like to thank the trustees for making this work possible. It is making a difference to the lives of many farmers and contributing towards positive change in our country.
AT GRASS ROOTS
The deeper meaning of the Zulu greeting ‘Sawubona’ (We see you) is an invitation to a deep witnessing and presence. This greeting forms an agreement to affirm and investigate the mutual potential and obligation that is present in a given moment. At its deepest level this ‘seeing’ is essential to human freedom.
Not only do developing farmers face significant barriers or constraints in agriculture but they also struggle to access expertise or extension services. The future of successful farmer development requires that their needs are seen and ways to bridge the gap between farmers in rural South Africa and modern technology, information and best practices are found. The Grain SA Farmer Development programme has a number of knowledge transfer and support systems in its tool box. One such tool is individual support to farmers.
Team members offer support to farmers who have been identified as progressive and who have the potential to grow their farming enterprises further. The intention is to equip these farmers over a period of time with knowledge and surround them with a supportive network which they become familiar with during the ‘face-to-face’ process. These encounters can take place both at the farm throughout the season and at selected meetings where the farmer is introduced to other farmers and role-players. This type of mentoring strengthens farmers showing good potential and contributes to household and national food security.
A visit to the Louwsburg area
Jurie Mentz is the Grain SA development co-ordinator at the Louwsburg office. Agriculture is an important economic activity in this area and impacts the livelihoods and household food security of millions of rural dwellers. Agricultural potential is high and the region is well suited to the cultivation of maize, soybeans and dry beans, but in general the yields achieved are well below the regional potential.
The office manages study groups, training and mentorship to farmers distributed from Louwsburg and Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal to as far north as Bronkhorstspruit and Middelburg in Mpumalanga. Study group meetings cover every aspect of planning, purchasing, production and business management through to harvesting.
The farmers know they are only a phone call away from a word of advice or a helping hand whether it is to address a concern about an unhealthy leaf or how to go about storing or marketing product.