Farmer Development shifts into higher gear

Louise Kunz, SA Graan/Grain editorial team
Published: 4 November 2021

112

Grain SA has been involved in developing emerging farmers since its inception. The Farmer Development Programme (FDP) forms one of the core business units of the organisation.

The aim of the programme is to equip individual farming enterprises towards becoming self-sustainable and to make a significant contribution to the national goal of a united and prosperous agricultural sector. To ensure its sustainability, the programme will now enter a new phase, but will still focus on the development, training and mentorship support of emerging farming enterprises.

Farmer support and sustainable funding
At the 2020 Grain SA Congress the decision was made to transform the Grain SA FDP to a non-profit organisation called Phahama Grain Phakama (PGP). The new organisation has been registered and is on the brink of becoming fully operational. Additionally, PGP will be registered as a public benefit organisation (PBO) with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and specifically as a Section 18A company with benefits to offer funding partners and sponsors of public benefitting projects in terms of farmers.

The goal of PGP is exactly the same as that of the FDP – to develop farmers. It will now just be structured through an independent arm of Grain SA. The name – which basically means ‘growth for grain farmers’ – is symbolic of the accelerated growth needed for many new era commercial producers in South Africa to sustain their businesses and make a fair contribution to national food security. The focus of the organisation will therefore move towards a greater emphasis on the commercialisation of new era producers, within the wider Grain SA structure.

Although more support will be given to new era commercial producers towards becoming independent commercial producers, subsistence farmers will still receive support through the Beyond Abundance project.

‘Many of the new era producers who are part of the programme have been receiving support for many years and are still not farming independently. Our task going forward is to develop these farmers to commercial level, or at least a state of independence from the programme,’ says Sandile Ngcamphalala, Grain SA’s programme manager for Farmer Development. They should be ready to farm independently within three to five years.

‘Currently there are just over a hundred new era producers supported through the programme. It is a priority that these beneficiaries also join Grain SA as commercial members and that they participate within the Grain SA structure. The organisation will take active steps to promote commercial membership amongst new era producers. We cannot afford to have free riders. Most of these farmers are fully capable, we just have to allow them to grow.’

A programme that works
Grain SA’s FDP has been in operation for more than 20 years and thanks to the dedicated team that has carried the programme, it is still going strong.

The programme aims to support developing farmers to harvest the highest possible yield from the land they are farming – whatever the size – using a combination of technologically advanced practices. Farmers are trained, mentored and supported every step of the way to ensure that they reach the stage where they can take full responsibility for their farms and carry on without the support of the programme.

Over the years, the farmers that have continuously demonstrated full commitment and a great sense of responsibility and who have taken full advantage of the mentorship and funding support, have achieved great success. The challenge is to accelerate the scaling up. Challenges in this regard also include issues that have nothing to do with the programme effort. Access to secured high potential land, affordable inputs and funding remains key and thus a greater focus of the programme going forward.

Taking the lead
Sandile Ngcamphalala was appointed as farmer development lead responsible for PGP in March 2021. He has dual reporting responsibilities to Grain SA CEO, Dr Pieter Taljaard, and to PGP’s board of directors, including Derek Mathews, Jaco Breytenbach, Jeremia Mathebula, Ramodisa Monaisa, Richard Krige, Sarel Haasbroek and Willem Groothof, who were appointed on 1 September 2020 as per the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) notice.

At the first meeting of the board of directors which took place on 11 November 2020, Ramodisa Monaisa was elected as the first chairperson of the board, with Jeremia Mathebula as vice-chairperson.

Funding partners as cornerstone
The FDP cannot operate without sponsorships and the programme has been sponsored by numerous different industry trusts and partners over the past few years. PGP has been established as the development entity of Grain SA to ensure that Grain SA is BEE compliant and that donors can benefit from their involvement with the programme. This will make it possible for PGP to actively source more funding directly targeted for farmer input support, especially from the private sector.

Current funders of the programme have welcomed the establishment of PGP and are committed to support the organisation into the next phase. These include AB InBev, the South African Cultivar & Technology Agency (SACTA), Standard Bank, PepsiCo, Bayer, Corteva, the Maize Trust, the Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust, Pannar, the Winter Cereal Trust, Sasol South Africa and the Sasol Trust.

Without these partnerships, the programme could not continue and Grain SA is grateful to each one for their trust and willingness to invest in the development of South Africa’s emerging farmers to ensure the transformation of the sector.

Grain SA and PGP will also explore more opportunities for partnerships with international donors – and where applicable – with provincial governments as key and strategic partners. Through this initiative Grain SA hopes to increase partnerships and ensure the programme is sustainable and that the supported farmers can access maximum benefits.