Farmers benefit from farmer development partnership

Published: 6 February 2020

SA Grain editorial team


Successful transformation in agriculture, the optimal use of resources, increased land use and rural development are just some of the goals driving the Grain SA Farmer Development division.

From their development offices in Paarl, Lichtenburg, Nelspruit, Dundee, Kokstad, Mthatha and Maclear as well as the office in Bloemfontein from where the programme is managed, the division is in contact with more than 14 000 farmers at different levels. Over the years this programme has partnered with several institutions in working towards its vision of a united and prosperous sector.

89-year-old Anna Ratshikana preparing the planter to plant beans in February 2019.

‘Without the funding from the grain and oilseeds trusts (the Maize Trust, the Winter Cereal Trust, the Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust and the Sorghum Trust) emerging farmers would not have benefited as much as they have in past years. Monsanto (now Bayer) has been very generous in their funding – helping us to keep three full offices operational. We are also very grateful to Afgri, Corteva (Pioneer and Pannar), Grain SA, Omnia and Silostrat, whose contributions have made it possible for the full programme to continue. The AgriSETA contributes funding towards our training courses as well as the schools programme,’ says Jane McPherson (programme manager: Farmer Development, Grain SA).

Graeme Engelbrecht, regional development manager in the Dundee office, visits the Mngadi brothers just outside Estcourt.

Working with AB InBev
In 2019 a new partner emerged as Grain SA managed to collaborate with AB InBev for the funding of 34 participating farmers who benefited from production input support. The goal of the project was to promote new and emerging growers’ contribution into the maize supply chain. Three of Grain SA’s regional farmer development offices were involved in the implementation of the project.

197 tons dry beans and 1 909,26 tons of maize were harvested in the 2018/2019 season.

The programme was designed to provide loans which would enable farmers with production finance. All participating farmers were expected to make their own contribution before receiving AB InBev’s input support of R5 000 per hectare. The total budget of the project was over R10 million.

Through this initiative AB InBev is developing farmers who will eventually produce non-GMO maize for its breweries. ‘In order to build and capacitate farmers, these loans provide the opportunity to “practice” farming on various crops before these farmers become producers of non-GMO maize. Through this funding, the farmers are able to use their previously unused land,’ explains Jane.

197 tons dry beans and 1 909,26 tons of maize were harvested in the 2018/2019 season.

Grain SA is registered with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, which allows them to open and manage Third Party Funds Administrator (TPFA) accounts for farmers who participate in the programme. In this capacity, Grain SA undertook to manage all procurement of inputs and to be responsible for all record-keeping together with the farmers.

The service level agreement that was set up states that the farmer will have the benefit of the funds in the TPFA account via Grain SA only once provision has been made for the following year’s production inputs. Only then may the remainder of the funds (profit) be claimed by the farmer for own use.

Six farmers were involved with this project in the Dundee regional office and were mentored by Graeme Engelbrecht and Chris de Jager. In Ladybrand 16 farmers participated and were mentored by Johan Kriel, Francois Fivaz and Willie Prinsloo. In the Lichtenburg area twelve farmers were mentored by Du Toit van der Westhuizen and Piet du Plessis.

The project faced quite a few challenges because of the drought. The initial project plan was to plant 1 738 ha to crops. The early drought seriously hampered project progress and a number of farmers were not able to plant the crops as planned. In the end
1 371 ha were planted for the 2018/2019 season, with the following results being achieved: 197 tons of AB InBev dry beans, 1 909,26 tons of AB InBev maize and 318,65 tons of AB InBev sunflowers.

‘As far as beans and sunflower yields (0,84 t/ha and 0,57 t/ha) were concerned, the 2018/2019 season was particularly disappointing. This is, however, not a reflection on the farmers or on their capabilities, but rather of unfavourable climate conditions during a challenging season. We are thankful for the opportunity to roll out the same initiative in the new season and are hopeful for better growing conditions,’ says Jane.

This year 89 farmers have committed to participate in the AB InBev project.