FarmSol, a leader in South Africa’s farmer development community, is celebrating five years of incubating and evolving farmers into fully fledged, future-fit and sustainable enterprises.
The black-owned agricultural programme – creating platforms to help aspirant farmers enter the industry and contribute meaningfully to the economy – reached its fifth-year milestone on 25 October 2021. And it is looking forward to reaching many more.
The transformative initiative, in partnership with South African Breweries (SAB) since 2016, has created a significant number of new jobs – direct and indirect – in the past five years. Through skills development and financial empowerment, improving livelihoods for rural dwellers has been a particular spinoff.
Food For Mzansi caught up with Aron Kole, the managing director of FarmSol, to reflect on some of their notable achievements.
According to Kole, in the 2021 summer crop season alone, they paid over R18 million in profits to participating smallholder farmers. To date, a total of R60.2 million in profits has been paid.
FarmSol’s partnership with SAB allowed them to link 982 smallholder farmers to a valuable multi-national market. “Our partnership enabled emerging farmers to plant over 44 000 hectares of grain crops.”
Meaningful support has reached 475 women farmers across South Africa.
Farmers were also introduced to new crops such as wheat, oats, sunflower, canola and soybean, in addition to the barley to be supplied to SAB. The additional crops ensure sustainable agricultural production for farmers, Kole explains.
Another noteworthy milestone was when FarmSol, this year alone, unlocked R27 million of new production loan funding, in order to support smallholder farmers produce crops outside the SAB supply chain.
“Our smallholder farmers in North West and the Free State produce high-oil-content sunflowers for the manufacturing of famous household brands such as Rama, Stork and Rondo,” Kole says.
“[And] our barley, used for beer production, is produced in Taung in North West and the Western Cape by a total of 103 farmers, consisting of men, women and youth.”
A springboard for farmers
FarmSol has furthermore been supporting young farmers through its Youth Ambassador development programme, launched in 2020.
Njabulo Mbokane, a beneficiary of the initiative and FarmSol’s national ambassador, says through the initiative her farming business has grown immensely.
The farmer from Mpumalanga shares that starting out as a sole farmer with no capital, mechanisation or qualification, she never thought FarmSol would recognise her and invest in her.
Mbookane has been under FarmSol leadership for three seasons already and is looking forward to many more.
“FarmSol has provided me with great help throughout the seasons since I joined the programme. I have gained knowledge from workshops and trainings that have been offered to me, I gained access to mechanisation, and I’ve been provided with the best production inputs of chemicals, seeds and fertiliser,” she says.
In 2019 Mbokane received the young emerging farmer of the year award from SAB, which she admits has opened doors for her business.
Farmer Mzewakhe Mthimkulu from Senekal in the Free State says he has also benefited immensely from the FarmSol initiative. Just a few years ago, Mthimkulu was struggling to acquire funding from banks to buy more land.
However, through the programme he managed to secure close to 400 hectares of land and several accolades in the agricultural sector.
“I am very thankful to be part of that project. Even when I tell my story, I get so emotional because I wonder where I would have been without FarmSol.
“I am a [competition] finalist with Grain SA because I am working with FarmSol, I am a finalist in the Toyota Young Farmer and New Harvest Competition, and I am a finalist with the department of forestry, fisheries and the environment. So, it has really brought some success into my farming venture.”
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