Due to the Covid-19 regulations and an increasing number of Covid-19 cases in January, no physical meetings could be hosted for Grain SA’s developing farmers. Therefore online meetings were held on 12 February for all four regions.
The first challenge faced in terms of the online meeting was connectivity and access to devices that could enable farmers to participate in the meeting. To overcome this aspect, the regional coordinators had to host viewings for farmers who could not log in at home. Due to the regulations and limited space, only potential commercial and new era farmers attended physically at various venues, with ample social distancing, as they would form part of the delegates for the congress.
NECESSARY INFORMATION SHARED
The programme was quite loaded, with the chief executive officer, Jannie de Villiers, acting as chairperson of the meeting. Alfred Gondo, a farmer from the Louwsburg district, opened the meeting in prayer.
First on the agenda the newly appointed farmer development manager, Sandile Ngcamphalala, was introduced. He commenced his duties at Grain SA on 1 March 2021 and expressed his eagerness to start, with a willingness to learn and share his expertise.
The panel members included Dirk Strydom, the current interim farmer development manager, Ramodisa Monaisa and Jeremia Mathebula, who both form part of the executive committee. The last panellist was Patricia Zimu, who is an administrator and marketer at Grain SA.
In terms of the Farmer Development Programme, Dirk Strydom covered the following content:
Staff changes, which involved the appointment of a new manager and operations officer, who will be replacing Jane McPherson and Willie Kotze.
He discussed the process of restructuring the Bloemfontein and Lichtenberg offices.
The conversation included a new non-profit organisation (NPO), named Phahama/Phakama. This organisation was formed according to Section 18A, with Ramodisa as the chairperson and Jeremia as the vice-chairperson.
The panel also discussed the current situation in terms of funding for projects and the challenges faced.
The presentation concluded with current market issues such as the grading and quality of maize, and the location differential.
In the question-and-answer session, the farmers requested training about the grading regulations, as it remains a big issue. They also asked for the SACTA (South African Cultivar and Technology Agency) project to be expanded to cover mechanisation and more producers.
In terms of marketing, Patricia Zimu focused on the different functions of Grain SA along with the benefits that members derive. She emphasised the importance of keeping communication channels open. Members were encouraged to communicate with their executive members and with each other through study groups to share timely information. She also pointed out the importance of paying levies to help sustain the organisation.
In general, the farmers were very positive and grateful for the good rains and the prospects for the season. The only issue with the extra showers received is that some areas were flooded, and farmers could not access their lands or spray against weeds.
Jannie closed the session by giving a synopsis of the current strategic focus of the organisation and the way forward for the year, including a succession plan for his retirement in August.