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More than 750 emerging farmers in SA complete groundbreaking training programme

More than 750 emerging farmers in SA complete groundbreaking training programme
(Photo: Leila Dougan)

Agri SA partnered with the private sector to train hundreds of emerging farmers across SA. There have been complaints about a lack of transformation.

To continue to provide agricultural support even after the training programme has ended is a key goal of the Farming for Tomorrow rural development initiative, said Sulaimaan Patel, the training and development manager at Agri Enterprises, a subsidiary of Agri SA, at a media briefing in Pretoria on Monday.

The initiative, which focused on training and upskilling emerging black farmers, was in partnership with the International Agricultural Academy for Africa and Agriseta. Running for two years, the programme recently came to a conclusion. It oversaw the training of 751 farmers, fast-tracking their access to the beef cattle, wool sheep and goat farming value chains.  

R15-million was injected into the initiative. The initiative was a pilot project, and the data collected from it will be used to spur a more expansive programme for a larger group of farmers. Thus far, the programme has been implemented across the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, Free State, North West, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.  

The programme sought to open up commercial markets to the farmers and position them for success. The initiative also provided leadership, management and entrepreneurial training which were inclusive of business planning, as well as identifying opportunities, market access, and understanding company structures.

This approach was taken to further develop existing transformation training programmes. More than 50 registered companies emerged from the programme. The initiative hopes to further assist with grant funding and SARS tax registration processes. 


“There’s a lot of training that happens … what seems to be lacking is the  [follow-through] of the training. We brought in a perspective that starts at mental wellness and carries on until today and will hopefully live into the future,” said Patel.  

“We’ve created communication channels, helped farmers with access to markets, live market information, market updates continuously. Now my job is to source more funding for [the farmers]. They need to get scaled up in some way so that they can scale up their enterprises.”

The programme partners say the initiative was the most comprehensive approach to upskilling emerging SA farmers to date. Programme conveners found that one of the farmers’ greatest challenges was access to information on pricing, commodity fluctuations, funding opportunities and disease outbreaks in their areas. In response to this, a WhatsApp group and Agri SA social media platforms have been used to disseminate information to farmers.

For programme participant William Barnes, a farmer from Oppermansgronde in the Free State, having such an initiative for his community, whose land was returned to them in 2005, has been of great benefit.  

“[Oppermansgronde residents] have been farmers for more than 100 years. It’s just that we never got any assistance under the previous government and that’s why we couldn’t expand. We didn’t have access to the latest technology and information — those were scarce things. 

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“Now this programme introduces that technology and its transfer, allowing us to grow by applying a level of best practices in farming. So we’re quite hopeful that this is going to take us forward,” Barnes said.  

However, the programme hasn’t been without its challenges. In his presentation, Barnes said the agricultural sector was still not transformed. He said black and/or emerging farmers were always sidelined, and while some privileged farmers wanted change in the sector, many opposed this.

Black farmers in South Africa are responsible for between 5% and 10% of overall commercial production, with the industry still dominated by white farmers.  

The programme had a large cohort of farmers aged 25 to 34, with women being prevalent in that group, said Johann Stassen, the managing director of the International Agricultural Academy for Africa. He said that while the emerging farmers had the resources to produce livelihoods, the knowledge was lacking, with most farmers not keeping records of their stock, making it difficult to grow and to access financial assistance.  

Climate crisis challenges

Stassen told Daily Maverick that while farmers were aware of the challenges of the climate crisis, such as water shortages and droughts, they felt unable to take any action to mitigate this.

Patel said the programme was expected to return with the training of more than 1,000 emerging black farmers. He said funding was vital; hopefully from the government as well.

However, Stassen was sceptical about government funding.

“The government is non-existent,” Stassen said of government support.

“We have gotten to the stage as the private sector where we don’t want to involve them. You do training at the lowest level and you don’t get paid, and once you start pushing, it starts becoming a wheel and deal. It’s a pity, as the government has a huge role to fulfil. But the private sector is seeing that it’s not a sustainable thing; we must go on our own.” DM/OBP

Absa OBP

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  • Simon Hodgson says:

    Sadly – until some sort of financial backing schemes become available to emerging farmers training them is like teaching them to drive a Ferrari and then saying – “sorry we have no petrol to put into it – you are just going to have to park it”. There has to be some form of follow through on financial backing to enable them to use their training.

  • Anne Felgate says:

    The government will let private sector do the work and then will claim the credit. Don’t let the government anywhere near it unless you want it to fail
    Well done to AgriSA and their private partners

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