JENNY MATHEWS, board chairman, GFADA
The Grain Farmer Development Association (GFADA) is an initiative which grew out of the Grain Value Chain Network, a network of grain producers and agribusinesses in the extended value chain, that have met together since 2005 to create an opportunity for round table discussions on the agricultural sector in an era of transformation.
One of the common areas of interest was soon identified as farmer development and a shared desire to support new entrants into the grain industry with the knowledge and capacity to guide them to becoming sustainable commercial farmers. It was recognised that although many institutions and companies were endeavouring with farmer development issues on their own, it would be more likely to have a greater impact as a united effort. Consequently, a pillar of the Grain Value Chain Network was established and became known as GFADA which has since been established as a formal, non-profit organisation and is thus fully dependent on donor funds to achieve its goals.
Grain SA has always been actively involved and represented on GFADA. It is currently represented by Mrs Jenny Mathews, who has served as GFADA board chairman since October last year and also the CEO of Grain SA, Mr Jannie de Villiers. Other board members represent the Maize Trust, Mr Karabo Peele and Dr Toto Hewu; the Winter Cereals Trust, the vice-chairman, Mr Maseli Letuka and Mrs Mmaphefo Mabe; the National Chamber of Milling, Mr Allan Bishop; the Sorg-hum Trust, Mr John Gordon; Agbiz, Mrs Mariana Purnell and the NAMC, Mr Zama Xalisa and Mr Andries Cronje.
Initially the association was driven by volunteers from the Grain Value Chain Network, but during the term of the immediate past chairperson, Allan Bishop, the decision was taken to appoint a permanent manager to take GFADA forward. It was recognised that in order to achieve the organisation’s objectives, a more concerted effort was required to address the recruitment of donors, administer the applications and the funding of the various farmer development projects.
Mr Zolile Duze has been ably assisting us in this position since October 2012 and has made great strides in familiarising himself with the issues that farmers experience both in growing their farms, but also in service delivery highs and lows from the various development agencies.
The question has been asked: Why the need for another farmer development entity, when the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme does such amazing work? The funding for Grain SA’s programme is primarily from the different grain commodity trusts and must be allocated in their interests. However, most new farmers face many other challenges in developing their whole farming enterprise; and they particularly struggle to access financing.
The vision in the long term is to assist new era farmers in whole farm development; but the first focus areas of GFADA have been on the grain value chain and finding ways to accelerate transformation. Hence the current focus of GFADA is on dispersing grant funds in three areas:
- Soil correction – through the application of lime.
- Crop insurance – offering a subsidy towards the premiums.
- Mentorship – subsidising the cost of mentorship.
GFADA does not in itself do any implementation on grass roots level, but works in conjunction with development initiatives with a proven track record. The projects are carefully monitored by Mr Duze throughout the season.
There is still much work to be done, but we hope that a solid track record and encouraging reports from the farmers will encourage more role-players in the value chain to put their corporate social responsibility or enterprise development funds into the GFADA kitty. Nonetheless, we believe that as the Grain Value Chain Network and GFADA, we are already making a valuable contribution to the development of new farmers.