The Grain SA Farmer Development Programme focusses on a results-oriented communication process that encompasses both theory and practical knowledge, as well as skills transfer so that the new information equips farmers to use the land available to them optimally.
Over the many years of involvement in farmer development, the Grain SA team has realised that many different tools of communication need to be employed to teach farmers modern technologies and ensure that significant and meaningful knowledge transfer is effected. The team has very strategically put different actions in place to respectfully guide and develop farmers by adopting a ‘tell, teach and involve’ method for the learning process.
DEMONSTRATION TRIAL PLOTS
One of the most effective communication development strategies that has been employed over the years has been the planting of demonstration trial plots with different study groups. Trial plots are a wonderful way of showing farmers the right thing to do, the right time to do it and the right way to do things – and even sometimes what not to do, like leaving a portion of the field to grow without any weed control plan or no spray programme while the remainder of the field receives all the correct attention.
Grain SA relies on partners from the agri sector to assist with donations of inputs so the development managers in the various regions make contact with input supply companies and involve them and their agricultural experts in the trials. Every effort is made to plant and manage the trials in a way that is both progressive and technologically advanced, while at the same time within the reasonable reach of the developing farmers. Study group farmers are involved in the planning and preparation of trial plots. Farmers are then able to monitor the progress of the trial plots to see for themselves how successful these strategies are.
Nora Cruz Quebral, often referred to as the ‘mother of development communication,’ said: ‘The purpose of development communication is to advance development’. Development communication in agriculture needs to stand on a platform of diverse communication strategies ensuring knowledge transfer for progress. The Grain SA Farmer Development team is building a stronger, more efficient agricultural sector that will feed and support nuclear farming families, supply healthy food to a growing population and create gainful employment for many more rural dwellers.
AT GRASS ROOTS
Look and learn
Trial plots are planted whenever the opportunity arises and suitable funding can be sourced. The Grain SA Farmer Development team has seen the effective learning that comes from being able to see the different results which come from doing the right thing in the right way.
During 2021/2022, four trial plots were planted in four locations:
Limpopo: To benefit the new study groups in Limpopo, a maize trial plot was planted at Sehlakwane under the leadership of Jerry Mthombothi, the regional development manager at the Mbombela office. Grain SA bought the fertiliser and Bayer donated the seed and chemicals. The main purpose was to educate farmers about the no-till planting method. A total of 30 000 plants/ha were sown, using several different seed varieties.
Western Cape: Liana Stroebel, the Western Cape regional development manager, coordinated a trial plot that was planted on Middelpos near Moorreesburg. It was a collaboration between Grain SA, leading farmer Alfreda Mars, who provided the mechanisation, and Nexus, who supplied the fertilizer and chemicals. This was a first-time planting of canola, done with the aim of determining yield potential. The harvest yielded 1,2 t/ha in a season that presented many challenges, with the rain which made it difficult to enter some areas of the field. The exercise was successful enough to inspire the planting of 50 ha in the 2022 season.
Mpumalanga: Jurie Mentz, the regional development manager at the Louwsburg office, coordinated a 1 ha soybean trial plot at Donkerhoek. The plant population was 300 000 plants/ha, with a row width of 0,9 1 m.
Eastern Cape: Luke Collier, the Eastern Cape regional development manager, planted a sunflower field trial plot on Yonaroo Farm near Kokstad. There was much collaboration between Grain SA and Andre Chooks, who provided all the mechanization and the fertiliser. Pannar supplied the seed and the chemicals were provided by Farmers Agri Care. This is a 6-ha trial, using the no-till method of planting. The early season saw a problem with slugs in the crop. This was so bad that a replant was necessary and slugs were then chemically controlled. The result was a steep learning curve for farmers on pest control and a much better plant population. The crop has done well, apart from slight hail damage. The plants were just starting to die off at the end of May. Grain SA hopes to host a farmers’ day there with industry partners in the near future.
Developing knowledge at farmers’ days
To offer farmers an opportunity to visit the trial sites, farmers’ days are arranged in these areas. Here farmers can exchange information with other farmers, input supply companies, local extension officers and other sector stakeholders, who are strategically invited to these days.
During the 2021/2022 season, the following farmers’ days were held:
24 February, Mthatha office: Mr Mhlana addressed the 88 attendees at Ngcobo-Bokleni.
13 April, Mbombela office: The 145 farmers learned from Bayer representatives and Jerry Mthombothi at Syverfontein.
13 April, Louwsburg office: The Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust (OPDT) funded the event at Driefontein Community Hall, where 87 attendees came to listen to Henry Davies, Timon Filter and Jurie Mentz.
20 April, Kokstad office: The farmers’ day at Colana, Mount Frere, where Luke Collier addressed the crowd, was very well attended. Cipla also spoke on livestock care.
21 April, Dundee office: The focus at Milnedale Farm was on plant requirements and fertilisation. Representatives from the Department of Agriculture (DoA) KwaZulu-Natal and Bayer addressed the 37 farmers.
22 April, Mbombela office: At Hereford East, 100 attendees could learn more about agriculture from Grain SA, Bayer, Kynoch and the DoA Mpumalanga.
29 April, Mbombela office: The Limufuye Project hosted the last of April’s farmers days. Speakers were Jerry Mthombothi (Grain SA) and representatives from Bayer, the DoA Mpumalanga and Villa Crop.