Mr Jannie de Villiers, CEO of Grain SA, once said, ‘A coach has his own game plan and tells you what to do to achieve his goals. A mentor, however, is a person that gives you advice on how to achieve your own goals and dreams.’
Mr Paul Wiggill 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 improve people’s lives.
The Wiggill family are primarily traders and sheep farmers. 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. 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 one also had to cross the Caledon river to get there.
Turning passion into purpose
Paul attended Weston Agricultural College in Mooi River, KwaZulu-Natal – an agricultural secondary school for boys. Here young men are educated through the integration of academic as well as practical farming principles.
Farming has always been his passion and he has made time, whenever possible, to assist others who share this passion. Therefore, 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 says.
He began his mentorship training in May 2016 and started mentoring in July 2016. Speaking Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa makes him a noteworthy mentor in the Bergville area – an area which includes Dukuza, Bethany and Zwelisha. In total, Paul mentors approximately 200 farmers who have been divided into five study groups with meetings being held on a weekly basis. All the mentees also receive personal visits to see first-hand how the practices are implemented.
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 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.
Bringing change through knowledge
Although all agricultural practices are covered by the mentorship programme’s curriculum, he found the three most important practices that required attention in his area to be the following:
- Application of lime: The importance of applying lime and applying it correctly are crucial in maximising the yield potential of the soil and it is imperative that farmers learn how to look after their soil.
- No-till practices: Farmers have to learn what no-till entails and how advantageous it can be. Understanding this practice is the key in this regard. The idea of not preparing the land before planting may not be a well-known practice, but once the advantages become apparent, more and more farmers are interested.
- Applying the correct amount of seed and fertiliser.
A rewarding programme for mentor and mentee
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 have 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 who appreciate the information conveyed, has made him even more eager to teach.
He applauds Grain SA for the insight to develop this programme and seeing the impact it has had in the lives of the farmers excites him. ‘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 a gogo who said, ‘Thank you for all your help. I could not have done it without you.’ He says at that moment he realised that the Grain SA mentorship programme was making a big difference in people’s lives and that he was truly blessed to be part of it. He had two finalists for the Subsistence Farmer of the Year in 2018, but to him the relationships he has built with all the farmers in his area stand out even more. As mentor he is making an impact on their lives, but unknowingly their lives are making an impact on his.
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.