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This farmer development programme is all about farmers and farming

February 2021

Jenny Mathews, Pula Imvula contributor. Send an email to jennymathews@grainsa.co.za  

Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme aims to contribute to the dream of a united and prosperous agricultural sector. At the same time we have to address food security and food sovereignty, income generation for those who have access to land, protection of the natural resources and job creation. We are blessed to be working in a sector, which has the potential to contribute to all the pillars of rural development.

We have adopted a multi-pronged approach and have a number of platforms that we use to meet farmers, identify needs in the different communities where we work and transfer skills and knowledge. The development communication specialist Nora Cruz Quebral says: ‘The purpose of development communication is to advance development. This then is the job of development communication: To inform and motivate at the national, sectoral and project levels. The job of development communication is the process of development itself.

Farmer Harry Khumalo acquired new lands and asked mentor Chris de Jager to help him assess the soils and decide if they were suitable for planting in this season (13 November 2020).

Werner Vos demonstrates taking soil samples (13 October 2020).

Not all farmers are at the same level. Some are small farmers who wish to grow, some just want to grow enough food to feed their family while others wish to become commercial farmers and fully fledged entrepreneurs into the value chain. We do not discriminate. We will help a farmer on 1 ha or 100 ha. We aim to meet grain farmers where they are, and then walk beside them in pursuit of their goals. To do this we have embraced a number of different strategies which we keep in our toolbox.

  • The farmers of South Africa either own or have access to land through various tenure arrangements.
  • The aim of the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme is to equip individual farmers to use the land they have access to, optimally.

Every activity undertaken within this programme is tailored with the specific intention of transferring knowledge and skills; and each one is designed to target as many farmers as meaningfully as possible.

Key development activities take place at:

  1. Study group meetings where small groups of farmers in one region have access to information and expert advice from Grain SA coordinated by a local chairperson.
  2. Region appropriate demonstration trials – Scientific research has proved that farmers learn best from seeing with their own eyes, in their own location – and they change more willingly to more effective farming practices.
  3. Farmers’ days are organised to bring farmers to see trial plots and learn from experts from Grain SA and the industry.
  4. Support to individual farmers – A need was identified to support more advanced farmers who have grown beyond study groups and are already farming independently, but will likely benefit from a year’s intensive one-to-one mentoring.
  5. Pula Imvula magazine is a tool facilitating a widespread dissemination of relevant information and is the only sector specific farmer development magazine published in five South African languages.
  6. Training – Courses are specifically tailored for developing farmers and balance theory with a practical hands-on approach.

October and November

During October and November 2020, as the farmers prepared for the summer season, our managers and mentors paid 154 visits to 46 farmers who are receiving one-on-one mentoring.

The reports from the mentors are insightful and assure us that significant support is contributing to growth and development of the farmers.

  • Mentor Chris de Jager works with Graeme Engelbrecht from the Dundee office and reported after a visit to farmer KB Mazibuko: ‘I delivered the chemicals for spraying the burndown. The soil is wet and the weeds is growing actively and the conditions is good for spraying.’
  • After visiting farmer SE Mthethwa, he said: ‘Sabatha is doing very well with some crops planted. We had a discussion on what herbicides he can add to the burndown as there seem to be some weeds in the area that is building up resistance to Roundup.’
  • Chris de Jager also visited farmer RT Masondo. ‘Farmer Reginald was busy planting when I arrived on the farm. He was having a problem with the one row on the planter that was using more seed than the other rows. After taking the unit apart and inspecting it I saw that the seed scrapers were jammed and after we released it, the planter was planting as it should. The burndown has been sprayed and when the fertiliser arrives the farmer can proceed planting.’
  • Mentor Martin Botha works with manager Jurie Mentz from the Louwsburg office. After visiting farmer AM Gondo he reported: ‘I inspected the room where the chemicals are stored. We discussed the soybean spraying and we calibrated for Omnia’s foliar feeding programme per hectare and decided how much to pour into the spray tank. Then we visited the soybean fields. Next week, the soybeans will be big enough so we can spray the weeds in between with Roundup.’
  • Martin Botha also visited farmer MB Skosana. ‘We met at the workshop and then inspected the fields. We discussed calibration of sprayers and looked at the new spray set. We checked that the spray pattern was correct to wet weeds then determined how much glyphosate should be sprayed to kill certain weeds and discussed the cost per hectare with glyphosate spray.’

The Grain SA Farmer Development Programme is striving to ensure no grain farmer gets left behind! 

Mentor Chris visited farmer Lucky Khumalo to check on the progress of their soybean planting (26 November 2020).

Publication: February 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula