Grain SA CEO, Jannie de Villiers, received the Chancellor's Medal from the University of the Free State last week Friday. The Chancellor's medal is awarded to an individual for outstanding service or achievement at local, national or international level, or for service to the community or the university.
Jannie started his career as an economist for the Department of Agriculture in 1985. For more than 30 years, he dedicated his knowledge, capabilities, and leadership to the agricultural sector, specifically grain-industry development. Viewed as a leader in the agricultural and food sectors, both nationally and in international circles, Jannie plays a leading role in policy formulation, and his opinion is valued by role players in the agri-business sector, leaders, policy makers, and other relevant stakeholders.
Jannie is an exceptional team leader and is highly respected by all team members, which is evident through the organisation's successful development and training programmes, as well as support to commercial and advanced farmers. Under his leadership, Grain SA established a comprehensive farmer development programme that aims to develop black commercial farmers, making an invaluable contribution to food security. More than 10 000 farmers were accommodated in its initiatives. Together, these farmers cultivated close to 150 000 ha throughout South Africa and R20 million was spent annually in support of this programme. A further R100 000 million of Government and Industry Programs funding was managed to develop these farmers. He values the transformative power of training and development. In the organisation, training is not merely done for the sake of training, but to enrich people’s lives and equip upcoming farmers with knowledge and practical skills to improve crops, plan for the future, and to establish a sustainable livelihood. As part of this enrichment strategy, Jannie's focus on mentorship, shaped the cornerstone on which Grain SA’s Subsistence to Abundance project is based. (This project, in partnership with The Jobs Fund – National Treasury, Kynoch, Monsanto, SA Lime & Gypsum, Syngenta, and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, contributed greatly to the output deliverables and success of the project to date).
Under his guidance, the mentorship programme grew to launch ‘study groups’ (grouped according to location) assigned to a dedicated mentor. Each mentor meets with his/her assigned group on a weekly basis to provide theoretical training based on an introductory syllabus of maize production. The ‘study groups’ are not merely utilised for training purposes, but forms a platform through which farmers can express concerns, ask questions, and plan ahead, which proves critical for resource management and saving – contributing to the unbelievable results of the project to date. This is also the place where these farmers are exposed to modern input suppliers.
In partnership with Syngenta and the University of the Free State Business School, he was influential in the development of a tailored leadership development programme, offered at the Grain Academy. In support of this initiative, Jannie said “The establishment of a grain academy is in line with Grain SA’s strategic objectives and we are so excited to partner with Syngenta on delivering this project. The future of sustainable production lies in our competitiveness and it can only be improved with ongoing training.”
"It is a great honour for me to receive this award. I do so with great appreciation towards those who gave me the opportunity to lead and the team members that assisted me in this journey", Jannie said.