AgriSETA believes in the power of education to help advance the well-being and sustainability of Mzansi’s agricultural sector. This was one of the key messages at Food For Mzansi’s recent farmers’ day in Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape.
The event, held at the Phambili Dabini farm of Lukhanyo Ningiza, gave nearly 100 people a chance to connect with their peers and agricultural stakeholders, sharing stories and learning from experts in the sector.
In his presentation, Xolani Zituta, an assistant manager at AgrISETA, highlighted the importance of education. “We believe that by providing farmers with the skills and resources they need, we can create a more prosperous and sustainable agricultural sector in South Africa,” he said.
Blended finance with Land Bank
Vuli Qaba, representing Land Bank in the Eastern Cape, encouraged farmers to actively engage with the bank to explore funding opportunities. He introduced the sought-after blended finance scheme during his presentation, emphasising the importance of farmers comprehending its operations.
Qaba stated that Land Bank provides both pre- and post-funding mentorship, along with monitoring and evaluation services for funded farmers, aiming to help them achieve profitability.
Blended finance with Land Bank is increasingly popular among new-era farmers because it offers a number of advantages, including access to affordable capital with flexible repayment terms, technical support, and a focus on development impact.
Plant health is key to profitability
In his talk, crop advisor Duwal Edwards from AECI Plant Health said it was critical for farmers to know what type of fertilisers and pesticides they were applying to their crops. He advised farmers to get in touch with experts before wasting money and resources on inputs that would expose their crops to harm.
Plant health is essential for farmers, both for their profitability and for the sustainability of the agricultural sector. Healthy plants are more productive and produce higher quality crops, explained Edwards. They are also more resilient to pests and diseases, which can reduce the need for pesticides and other inputs.
Technology and agriculture: A promising partnership
Meanwhile, Ningiza, the host farmer and director of Phambilie Dabini Farm, commended Food For Mzansi for bringing together many key stakeholders in Stutterheim. The event was presented in partnership with Youth in Agriculture and Rural Development (YARD).
This collaboration allows the youth and various stakeholders to work together and maximise the benefits for all involved, he said. The aim is to help them develop and expand their perspectives, as well as take advantage of the opportunities available in agriculture.
Simthembile Bekebu-Mkiswa, from Stutterheim, described the farmers’ day as an eye-opening experience, especially following a Khula! presentation about incorporating technology in day-to-day farming.
Bekebu-Mkiswa works for the Amahlathi Local Municipality’s social development department. “It was insightful to connect technology and agriculture. Yes, we live in a digital age, but learning from Khula! made me understand why farmers need to obtain necessary skills at the tertiary level.”
She furthermore stated that she works primarily with backyard farmers and subsistence farmers. “I had no idea farmers could get help from so many organisations. This is extremely useful information.”
Bekebu-Mkiswa also stated that farmers must obtain certain documents to qualify for grants and loans, which is an important practice for those serious about growing into commercial-scale farmers.
From potential to prosperity
During his presentation, Mlungisi Bushula, managing director of SA Fine-Tuned Trading and Eastern Cape chairperson and national coordinator of YARD, emphasised the insufficient support that farmers face.
He shared that the Eastern Cape has been at a “potential stage” for far too long and that he thinks he was in primary school when he first learned about the immense “potential” the province holds.
“As I grew, I also saw it but couldn’t understand why we are still ranked as the poorest province while at the same time, we are known as the home of the legends,” he said.
Addressing farmers, Bushula stated that the true legends needed to ditch a scarcity mentality and adopt an abundance mentality to escape the current state of poverty and mediocrity.
“With the right mindset and collaboration across all stakeholders involved in ensuring food security, we can realise the long-awaited potential of the Eastern Cape to be the food basket and a major economic hub of the continent,” he said.
Phillip Tshidzumba from Fort Cox Agriculture Institute added that instilling the love of farming from early years was important to ensure that the country has farmers who can take the sector forward.
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