• Login
  • Search Icon

Investing in the farmers of the future

October 2023

According to the World Bank (31 March 2023), no economy can afford to underestimate the role of agriculture and in particular agricultural development. Healthy, sustainable and inclusive food systems are essential to achieve the world’s development goals. 

Agricultural development is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity and feed a projected 9,7 billion people by 2050. Growth in the agriculture sector is two to four times more effective in raising incomes among the poorest compared to other sectors.

Agriculture is essential for economic growth, accounting for 4% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and in some developing countries more than 25% of the GDP, but agriculture-driven growth, poverty reduction and food security are at risk as a result of multiple shocks. These include extreme weather events, pests and conflicts between countries, which are all negatively impacting food systems, resulting in higher prices and growing hunger.

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated a global food crisis that is driving millions more into extreme poverty. About 205 million people across 45 countries have so little food that their lives are at risk.
  • The impact of climate change could further cut crop yields, especially in the world’s most food-insecure regions.
  • South Africa’s food systems are responsible for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Current food systems also threaten the health of people and the planet. 
  • One third of food produced globally is wasted. Addressing this is critical to improving food and nutrition security.
  • Poor diets: Millions of people are not eating enough or are eating the wrong foods, resulting in malnutrition leading to illness and health crises. 
  • Food insecurity increases the risk of malnutrition, leading to undernutrition or being obese and unhealthy. An estimated 3 billion people in the world cannot afford a healthy diet.

Grain SA, through Phahama Grain Phakama and its Farmer Development Programme, is determined to make a difference in the South African agricultural development sector. This vision is supported by an extensive programme employing diverse strategies that seek to interact with developing farmers and impact them with new knowledge, modern practices, mentorship and diverse other support systems, such as these employed by successful commercial farmers.

The goal is to build support networks around each developing farmer who demonstrates a real desire and work ethic to grow his or her farming enterprise, using the natural resources at their disposal optimally.


Mentor Chris de Jager visited Lucky Khumalo, who was busy harvesting maize.

When mentor Paul Wiggill visited Nhlanhla Mngadi the maize was looking good and was nearly ready to harvest.

Musa Thomas Sibiya was busy harvesting his maize when mentor and trainer Timon Filter paid him a visit.

Courses focus on training and skills

One of the fruitful development strategies employed in Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme is training and skills development. The courses are comprised of both theory and practical sessions and are delivered in a language that the course attendees understand. 

These events have impacted the farmer development activities immeasurably over the years. Up-to-date records reflect that close to 3 000 courses have been presented. The demand from farmers for more courses, covering more topics, continues unabated. Grain SA appreciates the partnerships that enable the role-out of a meaningful training programme every year. 

Thanks to the sponsorship of the Maize Trust and the Oil and Protein Development Trust (OPDT), the following training opportunities were possible during June:

  • Two ‘Introduction to maize production’ courses were presented to farmers in the Eastern Cape. 
  • ‘Introduction to soybean production’ was presented in the Dundee and Louwsburg regions. 
  • Farmers from the Louwsburg and Dundee areas attended the course ‘Introduction to sunflower production’. 
  • A practical skills course about planter and boom-sprayer calibration was presented in the Dundee area.

During the course, ‘Introduction to sunflower production’, trainer Timon Filter showed the Middelburg Study Group how to take soil samples. They also learned more about planter calibration.

A big thank you from farmers 

Some of the farmers who attended courses during June, shared their gratitude after the training courses.

  • ‘I am happy that the training was very successful, and it was nice to be with this lecturer to learn more about farming. I want to come again to learn bigger things. The practical part was very, very good. Everything was in order.’ 
    –    Samuel Ramothibe 
  • ‘Theory was great – it was clear and we understood everything. We contributed our own facts or understanding of farming. We also learned from experienced farmers. We learned how to plant, when to plant and when to harvest the sunflower. We learned how to till soil and the different implements. We learned how to control weeds and pests and how to calibrate our sprayers. I know now how to fertilise my field. We even learned more about tractors.’
    –    Doctor Tshoba 
  • ‘Very informative and of great assistance. Well presented by the trainer, who explained everything clearly. He is very knowledgeable. Examples were given to give us more understanding. Thank you! Extensive experience from the trainer assisted the group very much. Good demonstration. Our lives are much better off than before!’
    –    Petrus Mtsweni​​​​​​​

Timon made sure farmers from the Pixley Study Group, who attended the ‘Introduction to soybean production’ cour­se, learned more about the soybean plant and knapsack calibration. The theory session also gave some insightful information – all thanks to the sponsorship of OPDT.

Publication: October 2023

Section: Pula/Imvula