For almost a decade, Potatoes SA has assisted black emerging farmers in building their own potato production businesses. To date, the non-profit company has already invested in and helped more than forty upcoming potato farmers. And they continue to do so through their enterprise development program.
“The goal of the enterprise development program is to assist in setting up, supporting and growing viable new black-owned potato producing enterprises through the provision of seed, mentorship, training, technical support and industry exposure,” says Potatoes SA Communications Manager, Hanrie Greebe.
“Potatoes SA has already invested in and helped more than forty upcoming potato farmers.”
When the program kicked off, it had an annual budget of R500 000. Nine years down the line and the budget has grown to over R6 million. Greebe says the program has been established in several provinces across the country. The amount of emerging potato farmers in Limpopo, however, is quite higher. This is thanks to the province’s weather suitability for potato production.
The outcome of the program has seen positive results. The participants, and those who previously participated, are now able to bring about change and create work for those who are unemployed. Greebe added that this has played a huge role in reducing poverty.
“This is being achieved through the number of jobs created by these new farmers. The training programs that are provided has made a huge difference in preparing the farmers to participate in the economy of the country. It is with no doubt that in a few years, the number of black commercial farmers will have increased tremendously.”
Aubrey Ratsomane (30) joined the program in 2013. He farms with potatoes, tomatoes, onions and butternuts in the Vivo area of Limpopo. With the help of the program, Ratsomane was able to build his own farming business, Aubrey Boerdery. He says through his hard work and what he has achieved he wants to give back to the community. Ratsomane now employs 10 permanent and 30 seasonal workers.
“I am giving back to the community, because it’s the people close to me. It’s the people, which I live in the community with, so I am ploughing back. The main aim is to plough back into the community so that they can have something to do to keep on going with their lives,” says Ratsomane.
In the meantime, Potatoes SA has established a partnership with several agricultural role players who assist them with the emerging farmers.
The collaboration includes government and various agribusinesses, such as the agriculture chemical supplier Nulandis, who provide loan funding to a farmer who graduated from the programme.
“A number of memorandums have been signed with the different provincial governments, although they have not come into full fruition. Potatoes SA has developed a strong partnership with cooperatives such as VKB/NTK where the cooperative provides co-funding to the farmers for the other inputs required.”
Enos Mahwai (62), who farms in the Blouberg area in Limpopo, has been part of the program since 2016. He says that he has learnt a lot through the program and would recommend it to other aspiring commercial potato farmers. However, Mahwai added that he would have liked to have more support from other agricultural organisations.
“I wish we could get, rather than it only being Potatoes South Africa, maybe any other organisations that could support us. As much as we love farming, we really [need to] start entering to the level where we can be able to produce and make food security a viable area. We need to achieve that.”