by Jane Mcpherson, Liana Stroebel

Agricultural transformation

Genetically modified organisms and the future

If we are to ensure food security, GMO is the way forward
GMO.jpg

Grain SA has taken tremendous strides over the past nine years by contributing towards the transformation of the agricultural sector along with true empowerment of individuals which has been a long-term but rewarding process.

Grain SA is not managing a social support programme where provisions and money end up in a vast hole, but rather a transparent and evolving development model, where knowledge and skills are transferred from experienced farmers to local individuals on a one-on-one basis.

The type of intensive support that Grain SA gives to developing farmers is now reaping rewards. It is generally unheard of in other empowerment structures and initiatives. Communities are literally being changed from within due to the fact that local individuals are becoming mentors and role-models within their own communities, which in-turn motivates them even more to strive for further development.

A few of the responsibilities which fall under farmer development are listed below:

Study groups

Developing farmers, who have access to land, are encouraged to form study groups which meet regularly to access training and information relating to the grain industry.

There are nine provincial co-ordinators who each have approximately 10 to 15 different study groups which they visit once a month.

Study group meetings mainly consist of guidance, information exchange and preparation for training.

It is compulsory for each study group member to attend a set number of meetings before training commences. Study groups make provision for beginner as well as advanced farmers.

We also find that as farmers graduate from the programme, they become very valuable members of the study groups as they can pass on first-hand experience to other farmers.

Farmer’s days

Trial plots are established and managed by the provincial co-ordinators where farmers can be directly exposed to the benefits of correct soil preparation, fertilisation, cultivar selection, weed and pest control and harvesting.

The staff involved in the programme co-ordinate the establishment of these trials with other role players in the industry, being the contractor, the seed companies, the fertiliser companies and the agro-chemical companies to expose farmers are exposed to the best possible production information and techniques.

The farmers are able to experience the benefits of correct management first hand and then do the same on their own land.

Farmer Of The Year competition

There is a huge amount of development work that is being done to support black farmers. There is also a perception that there are no black commercial farmers who are performing well.

The purpose of this competition is to give the grain farming industry positive exposure and publicity that is positive and to create role models for other people considering a career in agriculture.

The aim of the Farmer Of The Year competition is to recognise excellence amongst the developing farmers in the grain farming industry amongst the developing farmers and provide role models for others who are entering the industry.

Possible candidates for the competition are supported.

Regular visits to their farms play a important part in improving their production practices, as well as preparing them for the competition.

Training

There are 26 training courses each with their own manual available in various languages.

Feedback has proven that providing study material in a farmer’s own language plays a major role in the understanding and full comprehension of certain terms and concepts.

Training DVDs were developed which have added tremendous value to the insight and understanding of the practical elements of the courses.

This gives the farmers more exposure and facilitates their comprehension of certain 
actions or procedures which logistics, finances or a lack of equipment generally restricts.

Various scenarios, problems and ideals can be communicated to farmers more effectively, which in turn fast-tracks learning and comprehension and ultimately accelerates market access.

A total of 137 courses were presented and 2 389 farmers have received formal training during 2012.

These courses were generously funded by the Maize Trust, Winter Cereals Trust, Sorghum Trust and the Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust, as well as the Agri-Seta. 

Schools Programme

The Grain SA farmer development programme currently has 11 school facilitators who visit Grade 9 learners throughout the country up to three times per year.

The motivation behind this initiative is to educate learners about the importance of agriculture, to create awareness among learners as to the type of products that derive from agriculture and teach learners about the agricultural production areas in South Africa – what is grown where and also gives a broad overview of soil, the factors influencing it and soil conservation methods.

It also touches on types of inputs required, input costs, risk management and diversification and has a very strong focus on the types of careers that the agricultural sector has to offer. A total of 90 232 learners were addressed during 2012 alone.

Pula Imvula magazine

The Pula Imvula is a season-specific monthly magazine and acts as a direct communication medium for developing farmers.

Approximately 20 000 copies are printed in seven different languages and distributed each month. The Grain SA Farmer Development Team is passionate and committed to developing strong, independent and sustainable black commercial farmers.

 

 

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