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A programme that is changing lives

May 2021

Telling our own story first-hand

One of the drivers of Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme is our close interaction with farmers. We believe in getting out there, getting out of our cars and getting our eyes and feet on the ground, where our farmers are working.

During February our team was very busy travelling through rural South Africa, visiting fields and monitoring crop progress.

  • Our regional development managers had 166 study group encounters with farmers, either in the form of a meeting or a field trip to the farmers’ fields.
  • As far as farm visits are concerned, there were 97 one-on-one encounters with farmers who were assisted or mentored by one of our team members.

The Grain SA Farmer Development Programme presented four five-day training courses during February:

  • Fanie Pienaar presented ‘Introduction to soybean’ in Sotho at Sebokeng Agricultural Centre in Vereeniging – sponsored by OPDT, 23 attendees.
  • Agnes Mndawe presented ‘Introduction to maize’ at Zaaiplaas in Sehlakwane Village – funded by the Maize Trust, 28 farmers attended. 
  • Timon Filter presented ‘Introduction to soybean’ at Breyten Hall – funded by OPDT, with 25 attendees.
  • Elias Dladla presented ‘Introduction to groundnut production’ to 22 farmers near Artherston – sponsored by OPDT.


The Nelspruit Farmer Development Office services an extensive area and manages study groups, training and mentorship to farmers distributed from the east of Pretoria to the Swaziland border and further east to the borders of the Kruger National Park.

The farming activities in this area are generally on a subsistence and smallholder farming scale, where agriculture contributes significantly to household food security as well as household income. The agricultural potential here is high due to favourable rainfall and high-potential soil.

There is great potential to create more much-needed local employment and secure food sovereignty in the region. The farmers are able to grow a wide range of produce – from maize and soybeans to a wide variety of vegetables and fruit. Whilst many farmers are experiencing small successes, there is still much work to be done as production remains well below the regional potential in general.

General feedback from the regional manager, Jerry Mthombothi, is that the farmers in his region are positive. Despite early drought, the crops are looking good. Farmers in the region planted maize, groundnuts, sugar beans and a variety of vegetables. The heavy late rains have caused some issues with lodging and water-logged fields but nonetheless, improved production practices are promising good harvests ahead.

Close interaction with our farmers makes a positive impact on the relationships we build, but it also influences the mentoring we do about best practices and sustainable farming.

This Google map, which is highlighting Nelspruit Study Groups, reflects the extensive region that our farmer development team covers to mentor developing farmers.


Farmer Maseli Lethuka, a New Era Commercial farmer and a member of the 1 000 Ton Club, has been a longstanding member of Grain SA and the Kestell Study Group near Qwa-Qwa in the Free State. He has served organised agriculture on the Grain SA Board and on the board of the Winter Cereals Trust, among others. Johan Kriel is the regional manager at his side. We rejoice with him at the sight of such wonderful fields of maize this season!

Grain SA’s mentor visited farmer Tom Jacobs and discussed issues about his lands as well as diesel quality. 

The ‘Introduction to maize production’ course attendees learn how to take a soil sample. Agnes Mndawe presented this course at Zaaiplaas, at the study group chairperson’s house.

Bheki Mabuza is a member of the Donkerhoek Study Group, which is supervised by regional manager, Jurie Mentz from Louwsberg. He is a New Era Commercial farmer, has participated in the Jobs Fund project and is now a Beyond Abundance project participant.

Let’s take a look at activities in the Mpumalanga region

On 17 February, regional manager, Jerry Mthombothi, who is based in Nelspruit, travelled to Limpopo where he has started a new study groups who will fall under this region. 

He paid a visit to 13 Zaaiplaas study group members to give constructive guidance and advice on their arable lands. Betty Tala and Christina Mapaila are both participating in Grain SA’s Beyond Abundance Project. As a farmer development champion, Jerry is excited by the progress shown by his new Limpopo study group members, many who are living in deep rural areas. In the past they harvested between five and ten bags of maize on a hectare. Now they are looking forward to harvesting 3 t/ha to 4 t/ha just by using better practices and listening to expert advice.

Farmer Betty Tala took Jerry’s advice to spray and top-dress with N-fertilisers. Just look at her harvest now!

Another farmer who is smiling now after she listened to Jerry’s advice to top dress with two bags of N-fertilisers after a few weeds were found, is farmer Christina Mapaila.

This is the field of a non-Grain SA member who uses mechanisation to remove weeds from his arable lands, and does not have a knowledgeable source for guidance.

Grain SA Farmer Development rolled out four five-day training courses during February. One of these courses, ‘Introduction to Soybean,’ was presented by Timon Filter at Breyten Hall. The course was funded by OPDT and there were 25 farmers who attended.

The importance of collaboration

Two ‘friends of the programme’ contributed to make a difference in the community and in our farmer’s lives. We acknowledge their contribution with gratitude.

Bayer is a long-time supporter and partner of the Grain SA Farmer Development programme. This year Bayer donated 106 x 2 kg bags of seed for the Nelspruit office to distribute to subsistence farmers who are striving to improve household food security. Sophy and Anna Mohlongo were two of the farmers to benefit from this donation.

Grain SA’s Nelspruit office helped members of community and church organisations to receive a donation of maize meal during this challenging time. Mkhondo TWK at Piet Retief donated 1 000 x 10 kg bags of maize meal which was gifted to vulnerable community members who had lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic lock down. The people expressed appreciation to Grain SA for this initiative.

Publication: May 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula