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Grain SA’s (GSA) Farmer Development Programme is making great strides in terms of transformation in grain production. This was once again highlighted at GSA’s Day of Celebration that was recently held at Nampo Park.
This jubilant annual event, which was first held by GSA in 2009, aims to acknowledge emerging farmers in the development programme for their hard work and dedication. Jeremiah Mathebula, vice-chairperson of GSA and chairperson of the Farmer Development Programme, said this year the programme is “not a come and go,” but that the organisation is prepared to take it to the next level. He also acknowledged the valuable contribution of sponsors and other stakeholders.
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Liana Stroebel, chairperson of the judging panel, said each of the categories in which participants are judged, has its own criteria. Farmers are nominated by GSA mentors and provincial managers in the categories subsistence (producing 1 to 10ha), smallholder (11 to 50ha), potential commercial (51ha to 249 tons), and new-era commercial farmers (producing more than 250 tons).
The nominations are based on various criteria such as GSA membership, attendance of training courses and meetings, and showing commitment and progress over the last three years. A panel of adjudicators visit the participants and judges them on, among others, production practices, record-keeping, maintenance, marketing, and financial management.
There are currently about 4 000 members in the subsistence category, 800 in the smallholder, eight in the potential commercial, and 12 farmers in the new-era commercial categories.
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Uniting in action
Rosemary Nokuzola Capa, deputy minister of agriculture, rural development and land reform, said in her keynote address at the event, that South Africa (SA) relies on these farmers. She added that it is time for all stakeholders, including financers, to unite in action and put solid agreements in place in order for SA to be self-sufficient in terms of food security.
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A community caregiver for the Department of Health, Khuphukile Vinah Mazibuko, who produces on a small-scale farm in the Dundee region in KwaZulu-Natal, won the GSA/ABSA/John Deere Financial, Subsistence Farmer of the Year award. Prior to joining GSA in 2015, Khuphukile only farmed for her own purposes, but after completing many training courses she has switched to no-till and is rotating maize and dry beans.
Joseph Tuelo Mokaleng from Delareyville in North West scooped the GSA Smallholder Farmer of the Year category. Joseph helped his father work their communal lands from a young age and was one of the first members of the programme to join a local study group in 2006.
Joseph has since grown the operation from subsistence agriculture to farming for profit. He farms with sunflower, dry beans and livestock, and planted 120ha of sunflower in the 2019/20 season.
In the GSA/Bayer Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year category, Bheki Isaac Mabuza, who lives on the farm Donkerhoek near Piet Retief in Mpumalanga, claimed the title. Isaac started planting maize in 2007 and joined the GSA study group in 2014. He then got involved in the local Donkerhoek study group. He planted maize on every bit of his 110ha arable land, yielding over 12 tons/ha in the 2019/20 season.
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The GSA/ABSA/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year award went to Mapidianye Phillip Manoto from the Lichtenburg area in North West. Following in his father’s footsteps, Phillip joined GSA in 2016.
His love of agriculture was honed at a young age. This father-and-son duo later managed to secure a loan from Land Bank and bought the farm Lusthof. Phillip has since taken over the family farm and leases additional communal land for crop farming.
He produced about 390 tons of sunflowers, 720 tons of maize, and 15 tons of small white beans in the 2019/20 season. Phillip is also a keen livestock farmer and aims to increase his Bonsmara herd. – Christal-Lize Muller, AgriOrbit
For more information on the event or GSA’s Farmer Development Programme, visit www.grainsa.co.za.