Pictured here are the six farmers with Sernick officials. From left Patrick Sekwatlakwatla (Sernick), Patrick Molotsi, Mojalefa Mashao, David Whitfield ( Sernick), Jacqui-Anne Middleton, Petro Naude (Sernick), Ernest Setlogelo, Solomon Mosoeu and Zacharia Matli.
Pictured here are the six farmers with Sernick officials. From left Patrick Sekwatlakwatla (Sernick), Patrick Molotsi, Mojalefa Mashao, David Whitfield (Sernick), Jacqui-Anne Middleton, Petro Naude (Sernick), Ernest Setlogelo, Solomon Mosoeu and Zacharia Matli.

The dream of farming commercially will soon become a reality for six emerging farmers from the Free State. They were identified through the Sernick Emerging Farmers Programme, aimed at training commercial farmers.

The initiative, established in 2018, is a joint venture between the Sernick Group and The Jobs Fund. “I am honestly humbled and honoured to have been selected to be part of this partnership. I believe it’s a step closer to becoming a commercial farmer and contributing towards our country’s food security,” says Mojalefa Mashao (28) from Wepener, one of the programme’s participants.

Through the programme, emerging black farmers are recruited, trained and provided with supply opportunities through integration into Sernick’s value chain.

The goal is to guide all those who are participating, however only a selected few are trained to become commercial farmers.

The programme is divided into three categories, and each has its own function. Altogether 660 farmers are admitted into the programme, which is known as tier 1. All the participants are given SETA accredited training and an opportunity to exchange their old stock with good quality cattle that fetch higher prices at the market.

A total of 300 farmers are then chosen from the 660 to form tier 2. Here they are equipped with technical skills to enable them to develop their own herds, while maintaining healthy cash flows to meet their working capital requirements.

Thereafter 50 farmers are chosen from tier 2 to form tier 3. They are taught new skills to help them grow into practical commercial entities with their own reproductive capacity.

Zacharia Matli, his wife Mary and Sernick's Patrick Sekwatlakwatla.
Zacharia Matli, his wife Mary and Sernick’s Patrick Sekwatlakwatla.

The first six farmers from tier 3 have recently agreed to the mentorship and commercial farm training by signing a contract. Mashao, who is part of tier 3, is one of the farmers who signed the agreement. He says: “As a young first-generation farmer, it gives me the much needed support and assurance that I’m moving in the right direction through the mentorship of a company like Sernick”.

In order to qualify for tier 3, farmers have to be an existing participant of the programme and have successfully completed the training in tier 2. They also need to be able to farm with at least 100 cattle.

“In other words, your farm must be big enough, the veld must be able to carry the 100 cattle. You don’t have to have the 100 cattle immediately; we will work towards it. And then we would want to see that all the training that we did is implemented on the farm,” says Petro Naudé, project manager of the programme.

Getting the opportunity to develop his own commercial farming business, has been an eye-opening experience for Zacharia Matli.

This 59-year-old new farmer from Kroonstad is tremendously grateful for the chance he’s been given.

“I see tier 3 as a door that has been unlocked for farmers, like myself, that are willing to work hard and have a vision and mission of where they want to be as commercial farmers. Not only did we gain invaluable knowledge that will help us make a success of this opportunity, but they have instilled in us the importance of hard work through their example.”

Naudé says the programme is currently only active in the Free State, but they will be extending it towards the Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp area in the North West. With this initiative investing so much time and knowledge in upcoming farmers, Naudé added that Sernick is very positive about the future of South Africa’s agriculture.

“Sernick is heavily invested into the emerging farmers, because we believe that there is a good future. You know our population is growing. People need to be fed and we would like our black farmers to participate in that.”