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Telling our own story first-hand

November 2021

Grain SA’s farmer development team is actively contributing to the dream of a united and prosperous agricultural sector. We are proactive about teaching farmers the most appropriate and modern farming techniques that we believe will change their unique farming operations for the better.

This is a team made up of many parts. We are: 

  • Farmers and agriculturalists. 
  • Development specialists. 
  • Teachers and trainers. 
  • Linguists who can communicate in multiple languages. 
  • Mentors.

Nothing makes us happier than helping people by expanding their knowledge and growing their skill sets. Therefore we are constantly seeking for opportunities to partner with other stakeholders who have a vested interest in successful land reform and farmer development whether they are from within government circles or in private sector, commodity organisations and agribusiness networks. These institutions make it possible for us to reach the most remote and rural regions of South Africa where bring knowledge transfer and skills development opportunities to farmers who wish to improve their businesses. 

One of the mentors began his reporting in August with the following words: ‘It has been so good to get to meet with the farmers again.’ The first meeting platform Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme offers is the study group meeting.

The month of August was still very busy in most regions of the country with farmers still threshing, packaging and marketing their maize crop. On the whole, farmers had a good year and many have been able to buy new season inputs already. The Grain SA team has been in regular contact with the many study group farmers. There were at least 148 contact sessions with study group chairmen and farmers in August.

Some may ask why bother with meetings, travelling and time spent on study group interaction, so why do we do it? We don’t believe there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; rather we like to talk to our farmer members and embark on a journey of knowledge acquisition appropriate for them.

This varies throughout the season as we deliver timeous information. Since August saw farmers still busy with harvest time and post-harvest activities, we have taught them the importance of accurate record keeping and have shown them how to determine the crop yields achieved. We have taught farmers how to know they are getting a fair deal for the maize they are selling. In South Africa maize price changes on a daily basis sometimes and price is determined by Safex.

Another meeting platform we have is farm visits which are targeted at more advanced farmers who need some assistance on their way to full commercialisation. There is a maze of uncertainties, choices, and new technologies that a potential commercial producer must navigate and the team assists with this. Close working relationships are formed with these producers while the nitty gritty of farming – the planning and challenges that farmers face – are dealt with on a one to one basis. 

The team makes a commitment to walk a road with a specific farmer and a commitment to funders to monitor and ensure that recapitalisation or targeted funding is spent wisely. By getting to know the farmer and all aspects of the farming operation, we learn more about his dreams and ambitions. We care as much about the well-being and success of an individual farmer as we do about successful land reform. 

During farm visits the team assists with planning and logistics. Where necessary we help fix old or broken tractors and implements. We worry with the farmers when there is no rain and we rejoice when we see impressive yields. When damage is done by a runaway fire, we weep alongside the farmer. Recently Thobani Ntonga and Abednigo Mofokeng from the Eastern Cape suffered tremendous loss after a runaway fire destroyed their maize fields and grain storage bins.

This is a fully funded programme with support from Government (DRDLR – Recap), Grain SA, the Maize Trust, OPDT and Standard Bank amongst others. We appreciate these sponsors.


After a runaway fire swept through Thobani Ntonga’s farm, his mentor spent a whole day with him assessing the damage. The maize storage dam was completely destroyed by fire.



Mlindeli Hlazo visiting the fields of study group farmers and monitoring their maize. Here farmers are harvesting and threshing.

Sometimes the mentor has to be the bearer of bad news. The mentor showed the farmer the clear evidence of a stalk borer problem which needs to be managed. Yields will be compromised if the issue is not dealt with.

Celebrate the harvest

These photos are of farmers with the maize they harvested in July and August. Most farmers had above average yields. The Grain SA team used any problems that occurred as an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson, like the importance of weed control, how to conduct field inspection looking for stalk borer and the importance of soil sampling.

Mentoring on home soil

One of the meeting platforms Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme uses is farm visits. The team travels thousands of kilometres every year to get to the farms as often as possible. In spite of a global pandemic, 78 farm visits were made around the country during August where the team got out of their vehicles and into the fields. Here are some of the activities that occurred during August’s farm visits.

Luvuyo Mbutho is mentored by Neil Kirk who made him an augur stand so at least two augurs can pour from the grain dams into the trucks. This just shows how invested the mentors are in the farming operations of their mentees.

Simon Mazwi collecting soil samples during Du Toit van der Westhuizen’s visit.

Another meeting with planning done on a bakkie flap – a farm visit to Paul Motlokoa to discuss water reticulation.

Johan Nel and farmer Sopazi Lunyaweni from the Maclear area discuss the season ahead.

Mentor Neil checks the moisture content of farmer Sabasaba’s maize on the field before harvesting.

Publication: November 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula