Since the start of the 2021/2022 season on 1 October 2021, the Farmer Development team has had over 1 500 contact meetings with the advanced farmers in the programme. Those are all individuals already well on the way to full commercial production.
Farmers are visited by their dedicated mentors, who spend time coaching them about business skills, crop production and mechanisation planning and management. They regularly tour the farmers’ fields to monitor soil health, crop progress and conduct inspections for pests and diseases in the plants. A timeous reaction to problems saves the yield returned from these fields.
WHEN THE MENTEE BECOMES THE MENTOR
There is nothing quite as rewarding as when the farmer, who was once in the developing programme, becomes a mentor to other farmers. One such farmer is Solomon Masango, a successful maize, soybean and livestock farmer in the Carolina district.
He says the Farmer Development Programme has played an important role in his growth as a farmer, because by being willing to learn from others he has fast-tracked his depth of agricultural knowledge.
Solomon’s hard work and dedication saw him win the Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Farmer of the Year award in 2015. After winning this prestigious competition, he received many phone calls from other emerging farmers who desperately wanted his advice about advancing their own farming businesses through better practices.
He was happy to share what he has learned and has subsequently become a valued mentor and advisor to other developing farmers. Together with Jurie Mentz, regional development manager, Solomon has walked the road with a number of other farmers in his region.
His top tips are:
Know what to do and if you don’t know, be willing to ask someone who does.
Plan ahead and set goals for each season and each division of the farming enterprise.
Timing is crucial – do the right thing at the right time to get a good crop.
Practise excellent weed control.
Be diligent about your administration and office work.
PASSING ON THE BATON
Solomon’s young daughter, Happiness, has followed in her father’s footsteps and thrown herself into her own farming business. Not only has she become a great support in overseeing farming operations with her dad, but she is also well on the way to become a fully-fledged grain farmer herself.
During the 2021/2022 summer grain season, Happiness planted her own fields and participated in the Grain SA AB InBev project. The heavy rains had a negative impact on her crops this season and she also had the misfortune of a runaway fire through some of her maize fields.
Nonetheless, Happiness successfully harvested her fields with a 3,9 t/ha average and a R4 400/t return on her crop. She proudly told Pula that she has fully repaid her loans to AB InBev and in spite of the minor setbacks, she will definitely be going full-steam ahead in the next season. Happiness says she absolutely loves working with her dad, as he is generous with his knowledge and support.
AT GRASS ROOTS
Mentoring changes lives
The Grain SA Farmer Development team considers mentorship a vital form of knowledge transfer and a significant disaster management strategy for successful farmer development.
The organisation has been in the business of training new farmers for over 22 years giving individual attention with specialised mentoring and support in the different grain growing regions. Grain SA believes that with intensive one-on-one support these farmers have the potential to develop their farming enterprises further along the road to full commercial production.
Where new landowners and young farmers have listened and learned from those in the know about best practise farming methods, wonderful results have been seen.
Newcomers to the business of agriculture should be prepared to learn from a more experienced farmer. Once the new farmer learns the ‘secrets’, he becomes better equipped to be a better farmer.
More than 20 years of BLESSINGS
In coordination with Grain SA, Bayer South Africa, one of the partners and sponsors of the Farmer Development Programme, recently premiered a new documentary called Blessings. It illustrates the real impact that smallholder farmer development has across the country and shows the power of partnerships and the resilience of smallholder grain farmers in South Africa. To watch the full documentary, scan the QR code: