As farming requires a diversity of knowledge and expertise, practical knowledge alone is not enough anymore. All farmers require ongoing education because there are continuous new developments in technology, science and business management. Training helps farmers to incorporate the latest scientific advances and technology tools into their daily operations; and ensures that developing farmers are not left behind.
One of the most common problems the team of Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme has noted at the study groups, is that most of the farmers have not been exposed to best practices – so their knowledge about modern agriculture is lacking and their skills in advanced maize production are therefore compromised.
Furthermore, many of those farmers are daunted by complex environments such as marketing and agribusiness development. Training to address these knowledge gaps is essential for sustainable development in the sector.
The courses are well designed and based on the feedback of managers, mentors and farmers regarding what training needs exist in the different regions. They are taught in languages the farmers are familiar with and each farmer is gifted a course manual to keep for future reference. Courses are aimed at empowerment through the acquisition of new knowledge and skills development.
Attending the training courses has proven to be beneficial and empowering for developing farmers, contractors and agricultural extension officers alike.
THE JUNE COURSES
Although the harvest season was imminent, Grain SA – with budget support from the Maize Trust and Bayer – managed to present three courses for developing farmers during June 2022. More than 50 developing farmers attended these courses, presented by Grain SA’s trainer mentors.
Fanie Pienaar presented a Sesotho workshop skills course in welding at NAMPO Park.
Eric Wiggill presented ‘Introduction to maize production’ at Mount Fletcher.
Timon Filter taught ‘Introduction to maize production’ to 21 Siyachathula study group farmers at KwaNgema near Piet Retief.
Some of the topics that were addressed in the theoretical side are soils, planting, weeds, pests and bookkeeping. The course also included practical demonstration on things such as:
Taking a soil sample, where a profile hole is dug and topsoil and subsoils are discussed.
The function of each part of the maize plant – roots, leaves, tassels, pollen and kernels – is analysed.
A practical demonstration of how to calibrate a knapsack sprayer.
A discussion on how to set the planter to release more (or less) fertiliser and seed.
AT GRASS ROOTS
Getting ready for the future
There is an African proverb that says tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today. During June, the Grain SA team was making sure that farmers were preparing for tomorrow through the following farm visits, study group meetings and training courses:
89 on-farm visits took place to give one-to-one mentoring and guidance.
59 study group meetings were held for developing farmers.
26 schools were visited to talk about careers in agriculture and show videos discussing career opportunities with plants and livestock in the agricultural sector.
Three five-day skills development training courses helped farmers to be better prepared.
Our farmers have their say
Here is what some of the farmers reported after attending the course, ‘Introduction to maize production’:
‘We learned things that we did not know about maize production. We did not know how to take a soil sample. We were made aware of how critical it is to keep our lands weed-free – it can be worse than hail damage. We are so glad that we were able to receive this training. We also learned that plants eat and if we want to have a good harvest so we can eat, we must first feed our maize.’ – Khabonina Kunene
‘Our training was great and it helped that it was translated into understandable isiZulu. We are grateful to receive training for the farmers.’ – Mlamleli Mbatha
‘We have gained more experience and information about the production of maize. Now I have knowledge on how to deal with problems, the importance of good drainage in our lands and how to use nitrogen and fertilisers.’ – Nkosi Fikile