We do our best to reach farmers in key grain growing regions and react timeously to their requests for guidance. We are neither able to source land nor act as a financial institution. As a vibrant grain commodity organisation we have an amazing team equipped to build capacity, grow knowledge and offer expert agricultural insights from grassroots to national level.
Grain SA’s Farmer Development programme focuses on meaningful human development and agricultural production practices. Thousands of developing farmers in South Africa are reaping the reward of doing the right thing at the right time in the right way, having learned from our experts. There are also dedicated partners who share our vision and sponsor the costs of the various offices and projects.
STUDY GROUPS AND FARM VISITS
During October 2021 our development coordinators and mentors had 81 contact sessions with farmers who are members of our study group programme and made 45 in person farm visits.
Through consistently pitching up and being present with an attentive ear, a word of advice and sharing our passion for using what they have at their disposal as effectively and sustainably as possible, the farmers have learned that the Grain SA team can be trusted to help.
Study group meetings are conducted indoors and outdoors where the development coordinators and mentors get down and dirty in the fields demonstrating, fixing, and teaching in a practical hands-on fashion.
Farm visits are tailor made to particular farmers and their unique circumstances. We focus on business planning, budgeting, sourcing inputs, dealing with contractors and building networks of support. We assist with activities, teach farmers to become capable, confident and independent and monitor crop progress throughout the season.
October was a month of assessment and analysis. What yields did the farmers achieve, how successfully have they used, stored or marketed their grain? Why were some yields quite low and what problems caused this?
KwaZulu-Natal mentor Rob Irons reported yields for Thabhane study group ranges from 2 t/ha to 6,5 t/ha. Farmer Dingane Xaba harvested top yields with another five farmers all harvesting over 5 t/ha. Analysing the reason for lower yields it as clear the shallow soils had become waterlogged in the very wet season and there had also not been sufficient heat units. The Dukuza Central study group had similar issues with the wet season. Top yields were achieved by Dingane Mkhonza and both Sipho Mabizola and Nomajaji Mazibuko harvested over 6 t/ha.
The Kokstad office was focussed on teaching farmers the importance of using good quality seed that will result in high germination and a quality product that is easily marketed.
October is also a busy month of preparation. It is critical that farmers order the correct inputs and get the right processes on the go. Many of the development coordinators spend days on the telephone calling farmers to remind them of the importance of buying good quality seed and knowing what depth and row widths to plant at. Also critical is soil health and fertilisation as well as weed control in the fields.
Support to commercial farmers includes sourcing new tractors and equipment and teaching them how to use the machinery and calibrate sprays and planters etc.
A lot of our work involves creating awareness about the challenges faced by the farmers so we are always eager to present farmers to departmental officials or agribusiness and other stakeholders like input supply companies.
Jerry Mthombothi also attended the Awareness Campaign on Crop Production at Dundonald. This event was organised by the Department of Agriculture, Limpopo Province and was attended by 67 farmers and officials. Jerry also did a presentation on soil preparation and planting maize.
AT GRASS ROOTS
Growing membership in Limpopo
The Zaaiplaas Study Group in Limpopo held a successful Imbizo during October. Grain SA development coordinator from Mpumalanga, Jerry Mthombothi, was in charge of the arrangements. Farmers in the area learned more about the work Grain SA is doing to develop and support farmers to follow the correct production practices. A total of 16 officials from the Department of Agriculture and 105 farmers attended the imbizo. Dr Sandile Ngcamphalala discussed the strategic focus of the organisation and explained the Beyond Abundance project and other projects that Grain SA manages. There is renewed hope and excitement amongst these farmers.
Paperwork is part of farming
During farm visits, Grain SA’s field officers discovered it is a paper war this time of the year. Paperwork hounds the farmers from the farm office into the fields.