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Success is best when shared

November 2022

The Grain SA/Phahama Grain Phakama (PGP) Farmer Development Programme receives sponsorships from various partners, such as the Kgodiso Development Fund and Standard Bank, to finance developing farmers. The Kgodiso Development Fund, which was founded by PepsiCo, aims to support the broad socio-economic imperatives of developing farmers, enterprise development, education and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMES) across PepsiCo’s value chain. 

Lethiwe Mthethwa, a farmer from the Dannhauser area in KwaZulu-Natal, is a beneficiary of the programme. Tshego Selepe, agribusiness manager at the Kgodiso Development Fund, says the fund and Standard Bank have each contributed 50% of the loan given to Lethiwe, via the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme. 

On a 612-hectare farm between Dundee and Newcastle, the Mthethwa family had for many years produced maize and soya beans crops on their farm, Milnerdale. Following the tragic death of the family patriarch in 2018, the 33-year-old Lethiwe Mthethwa and her brothers found themselves at the helm of the family business.

“Stepping into my father’s shoes was not easy. We were faced with many challenges – a fear of failure, low self-confidence, a lack of respect from workers and the potential for all of this to negatively impact our family dynamics. Despite this, we managed to embrace our challenges for the success of the farm. We learnt to trust each other as siblings, which strengthened our bond and helped in decision making and idea generation,” she says.

With limited experience and resources, Lethiwe is breaking barriers and pioneering a new generation of sustainable farmers in the country. 

In a heart-warming success story, Lethiwe has successfully settled her loan after the season’s good harvest. She hopes all small-scale farmers can be uplifted and supported with working capital, machinery and the efficient utilisation of funds, as well as mentoring and commercial guidance to grow and participate in main-stream farming. 

Tshego explains that the fund, which was launched in March this year, is part of the public interest commitment made to the government during PepsiCo’s acquisition of Pioneer Foods and is aimed at transforming South Africa’s food systems through supporting black emerging farmers.

“PepsiCo has committed to invest a total of R600 million over a five-year period in the fund – R200 million is for education and training, R100 million will go towards small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) development and R300 million has been set aside to support black emerging farmers,” he says. 

“The fund has helped us a lot. The funding allows us to buy input materials and tractors. When we get a profit, we will use it to buy more inputs to grow the business and employ more people to expand the farm,” says Lethiwe.

With a mission of developing capacitated sustainable grain farmers, the Grain SA/PGP Farmer Development Programme contributes to household and national food security through the optimal use of the land available to each farmer. “Our goal is to ensure that each one of the farming enterprises supported through our programme is profitable, grows and is sustainable,” says Dr Sandile Ngcamphalala, Grain SA/PGP Farmer Development Programme lead. 

Sandile acknowledged the growing partnership with the Kgodiso Development Fund, saying: “We need more strategic collaboration with like-minded partners to help achieve these goals. On behalf of many of the farmers participating in our programme, we remain extremely grateful for the vital role that Standard Bank and the Kgodiso Development Fund are playing in supporting the development of grain farmers in South Africa through direct financial and technical contributions.”

The farming sector is arguably one of the most important economic sectors for South Africa’s development, as it is directly linked to food security and poverty reduction. The majority of South Africa’s smallholder female farmers, in particular those in rural areas, are underrepresented in this sector and they rely predominately on the land to feed their families, with the hope of a small surplus to sell for some additional income. 

As someone who has been described as incredibly hardworking, Lethiwe says it’s important for women to get involved in farming. “I’m so happy to be in this field of farming, which seems like it’s male dominated, but I can drive a tractor and do what males do in this industry. So, I want to encourage all women out there: You can do whatever you want to do if you put your mind to it. 

“Making women active participants of the agricultural economy has benefits that extend way beyond their own livelihoods – helping to improve the lives of their families and communities too,” she concluded. 

The hard work of farmers across South Africa was recently celebrated at Grain SA’s Day of Celebration. Lethiwe and her brothers received an inspiration award at the event. Read more about this celebration of farmers in the December issue of Pula Imvula.

Publication: November 2022

Section: Pula/Imvula