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Communication is key for success

July 2023

South African farmers either own or have access to land through various tenure arrangements. The aim of the Grain SA/Phama Grain Phakama (PGP) farmer development programme is to equip individuals. 

All activities undertaken within this programme are tailored with the specific intention of transferring knowledge and skills. Every activity in the Farmer Development Programme (FDP) is designed to target as many farmers as possible in a meaningful way, inter alia via the following communication mediums:

Study group meetings: Here farmers have access to information and expert advice. The study groups bring the farmer development footprint to key grain-growing regions. This is where the relationship starts. The FDP team gets to know the farmers and the farmers learn to trust the team. It creates opportunities to identify unique challenges and opportunities in a specific region. It also ensures that there is appropriate transfer of information – both theoretical and practical. Mentors and managers can be instrumental in updating farming systems and changing lives. A total of 33 study group meetings were held in April.

Demonstration trials: Grain SA works with agribusinesses who are willing to donate to these important projects. Local farmers are also involved in the planning and preparation of trial plots – many also contribute to the project themselves. The team shows them why things must be done in a specific way. This is a wonderful learning opportunity, as farmers learn best from seeing with their own eyes, in their own location. Then they also change more willingly to implement more effective farming operations and improve their enterprise profitability. During the 2022/2023 summer season, 16 trial plots were planted.

Farmers’ days: These gatherings are organised to allow farmers to see the trial plots, to learn from experts such as Grain SA and industry representatives, and to build their own agricultural support networks. Five farmers’ days were held in April.

Support to advanced farmers: A need was identified to support advanced developing farmers who have grown beyond study groups. Those are farmers who are almost farming independently but will benefit from a year’s intensive one-on-one mentoring. They now receive individualised support and are frequently visited. The team made 152 farm visits in April.

Pula/Imvula: The monthly newsletter is an important tool towards facilitating the widespread dissemination of information. It is published in five languages – English, IsiZulu, Xhosa, Sesotho and Setswana.

Training courses: Skills development in agriculture is an investment in the future. Six training courses were held in April.

Farmer of the Year: Through this competition, role models are identified who serve to inspire others. The Grain SA team paid a visit to twelve potential Farmer of the Year candidates in the four categories during April.

Schools programme: This initiative recognises the potential of the youth to make a significant impact on the agricultural sector – if they can be alerted to the urgent need for them to participate as future farmers or in other careers in agriculture. The team visited 20 schools in April, where DVD presentations were done to senior secondary pupils to create greater awareness about agriculture.


At study groups, members not only get theoretical knowledge but can also see first-hand what must be done in the field.

Trial plots like this sunflower field trial plot which was planted in 2022 near Kokstad, offer a wonderful learning opportunity for farmers.

Advanced farmers like Thobani Ntonga receive one-on-one mentoring.

Through the Schools Programme, Grain SA is trying to motivate the youth to get involved in agriculture.

Inspiring farmers through knowledge

Farmers’ days provide an opportunity to get farmers together – along with a network of input suppliers, service providers and support groups, including leaders from the different government departments. Demonstration trial sites are often visited, where information can be exchanged with other farmers, input supply companies, local extension officers and other sector stakeholders who are strategically invited to these days. 

During April the following farmers’ days were held:    

  • In the Senekal district, 62 farmers visited the farm Astoria near Senekal in the Eastern Free State on 14 April. This event was sponsored by Bayer and Farmsol. The farmers were especially interested in the lecture at the soil pit, as root development, compaction layers and soil health are so important today.
  • Bayer also sponsored a farmers’ day at Gibsons Farm in the Normandien area in KwaZulu-Natal. This event, which took place on 18 April, was coordinated by the Dundee office. Information regarding no-till farming and crop production was received well by the 42 farmers who attended the event.
  • On 19 April, 53 farmers attended the farmers’ day at Milnedale near Dannhauser in KwaZulu-Natal. Bayer was the sponsor of this event and the arrangements were coordinated by the Dundee office. Apart from agricultural practices, the lectures also focussed on the importance of good administration and running an efficient farm office.
  • John Deere and Grain SA joined forces to coordinate a farmers’ day at Stoneybrook in the Kokstad area in KwaZulu-Natal on 20 April. The main objective of this event was to introduce John Deere Financing to the farmers. The attending farmers were eager to learn more about John Deere tractors and equipment.
  • The fifth farmers’ day in April was held on 21 April at Zaaiplaas near Sehlakoane in Limpopo. Representatives from Bayer, Kynoch, the Forestryand Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) and the Department of Agriculture shared their knowledge with the 61 attendees. 

Bayer representative Shadrack Mabuza talks about cultivar selection with the farmers at Zaaiplaas.

Farmers listen attentively to a discussion about tractors and equipment at Stoneybrook.

Programme supports growth

Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme, which functions under the name Phahama Grain Phakama (PGP), is an agricultural development agency that prioritises and supports people who desire to improve their farming practices and upskill themselves to become better farmers. 

The team uses several strategies to meet grain farmers around the country and find meaningful ways to facilitate knowledge transfer and skills development.

A key ingredient to the programme is building networks and partnerships with other stakeholders. PGP aims to: 

  • Meet farmers and earn their trust by demonstrating willingness to walk the extra mile in supporting them. 
  • Strengthen relationships between farmers and the agribusiness networks around them. 
  • Stay informed about political and policy developments that affect the environment, so that farmers can operate successfully.
  • Act as a watchdog to ensure that the farmer is treated fairly and has the best opportunity to get optimal performance from the available resources. 

PGP uses a variety of interactive methods to assist farmers to become better farmers.

Publication: July 2023

Section: Pula/Imvula