Dr. Vuyo Mahlati, land reform panel leader & president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa).
Dr. Vuyo Mahlati, land reform panel leader & president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa).

The African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) is gearing up to launch its much-anticipated Agribusiness Transformation Barometer, highlighting the role of black farmers in South Africa at an upcoming conference in Bloemfontein.

More than 300 farmers and agripreneurs are expected to attend AFASA’s third Agribusiness Transformation Conference (ATC) scheduled for 6 to 8 October 2019. Now in its third year, the ATC is considered a rare opportunity for farmers and agri-leaders to engage with policy makers at the ministerial level, and also to explore business opportunities with the private sector. Various agricultural organisations, including SAGRA, NERPO and SAFDA, will deliberate with government on a ten-year plan for agriculture in South Africa.

AFASA president Dr Vuyo Mahlati says she is very excited to launch the AFASA Agribusiness Transformation Barometer during the conference. She says the barometer will push black farmers to the centre of driving transformation as entrepreneurs, farmers and agri-processors. Its purpose is to measure the progress of transformation across the food value chain, with a focus on meaningful participation of black farmers in the commercial sector.

Mahlati says AFASA has, however, realised that even established businesses need to be transformed to meet future challenges. “The transformation goes beyond black and white. It looks at transforming to be resilient in the face of climate change and the shift in the global market.”

The barometer will assess progress made by government, state-owned enterprises, the financial services sector, and established commercial farming groups in delivering transformation initiatives in the agricultural sector.

Mahlati says the conference theme is “Farmers growing South Africa: Creating jobs and trade opportunities”. She describes the conference as highly focused, and says it will highlight the need for job creation and agriculture’s role in alleviating poverty and unemployment. “We also want to create awareness around the efforts of black farmers to commercialise.”

According to Mahlati, the industry has made great strides across the value chain and farmers have managed to grow their businesses, create employment and export their produce. “This is happening at a time where agriculture is extremely challenged as a sector. We need to focus efforts to ensure that we support those who are commercialising.”

The three-day conference will be held at the Imvelo Safari venue, owned by game farmer Xolile Dasheka, who is also an AFASA member. Farmers and agripreneurs from all over South Africa are currently registering to attend the conference.

 “What we are trying to do is push through the message that success in agriculture knows no race, but it is a matter of how you are supported,” says Mahlati. “We want to push black farmers to be at the centre of driving transformation, but realised that established businesses also need to be transformed.”

Mahlati urges farmers and agripreneurs to register as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. “The time is now. We might be struggling with droughts and the economy, but there are still opportunities out there. The conference is a great networking space for those looking for potential clients or partners and it’s also a learning and sharing platform.”

To register, click here. 

More information on www.afasa.org.za.

Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.