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The Corner Post

September 2017

In this series, The Corner Post is featuring the mentors who form part of the Grain SA mentorship programme. A mentor is that person who gives you advice on how to achieve your own goals and dreams.

The English singer-songwriter, John Lennon said, ‘A dream you dream alone is only a dream, but a dream you dream together is a reality’. Grain SA’s mentorship programme makes it possible for mentors like Paul Wiggill, to dream with emerging farmers and turn possibilities into realities.

Paul grew up on a sheep farm called Caledonia in the Free State on the border of Lesotho, not far from where he currently farms. He shares that the farm was very secluded with no access to it from the South African side. The only way the farm could be reached was from Lesotho and they also had to cross the Caledon river to get there. The Wiggill family are primarily traders and sheep farmers.

Passion becomes reality
Paul attended Weston Agricultural College in Mooi River, KwaZulu-Natal – an agricultural secondary school for boys. Here boys are educated through the integration of academic as well as practical farming principles. He says that farming has always been his passion and he has made time, whenever possible, to assist others who share this passion. He firmly believes in the old Chinese proverb, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ To him sharing his expertise with developing farmers is a dream come true as he knows development assistance can better people’s lives.

Because of this he was very excited to learn about the Grain SA mentorship programme from his brother, Eric, who has been a mentor with Grain SA for longer than him. ‘Eric inspired me to become a mentor and trainer as he knew of the passion I held to teach and assist others with agricultural practices. ‘This is actually what we had done for many years on our farm in Lesotho,’ he adds.

He began his mentorship training in May 2016 and started mentoring in July last year. Speaking IsiZulu, Sesotho and Xhosa makes him a noteworthy mentor in the Bergville area. An area which includes Dukuza, Bethany and Zwelisha. In total, Paul mentors approximately 230 farmers and all farmers are visited personally with Study Group meetings being held on a weekly basis. Paul mentions that it has been very helpful having a brother who was part of the mentorship programme before him. ‘I have been fortunate as Eric started with the programme before me and I have therefore picked up many useful tips from him.’ As they both enjoy working with people, they often discuss situations or problems that occur in their groups.

Teaching to improve
To him the three most important agricultural practices that need to receive attention in his area are the following:

  • The importance of applying lime and applying it correctly as this practise is crucial in maximising the yield potential of the soil. He says that farmers must learn how to look after their soil.
  • Explaining what no-till entails and how to make no-till practices work for them. Understanding this practise is the key here. The idea of not preparing the land before planting may not be a well-known practise, but once the advantages become apparent more and more farmers become interested.
  • Applying the correct amount of seed and fertiliser.

A rewarding programme
Paul thoroughly enjoys being part of the mentorship programme as it has given him the opportunity to fulfil a lifelong calling. Farming and teaching others about farming has always been part of who he is, so this programme fits him like a glove. Showing the ropes to those who are eager to learn and whom appreciate the information you convey has made him even more eager to teach. He applauds Grain SA for the insight to develop this programme. Seeing the impact it has in the lives of the farmers excites Paul. ‘Agriculture is a language all on its own and is essentially rewarding to those who are practical,’ he adds.

One of the highlights during Paul’s first year as mentor was when he got a big hug from Gogo who said, ‘Thank you for all your help. I could not have done it without you.’ He says at this moment he realised that the Grain SA mentorship programme is making a big difference in people’s lives and that he is truly blessed to be part of it.

There is a saying from an unknown source which states that a lot of people have gone further than they thought they could, because someone else believed they could. Perhaps this is what this Grain SA programme is all about: Mentors believing in the mentees.

This month’s edition of The Corner Post was written by Louise Kunz, Pula Imvula contributor. For more information, send an email to louise@infoworks.biz.

Publication: September 2017

Section: Pula/Imvula