Eight farmers in North West recently graduated from a 12-month programme as part of the South African Good Agricultural Practice Programme (SA-GAP). One of the participants is 30-year-old Kelebohile Matsose and she has set her eyes on the goal ahead: chia seed farming!
“I started off as a vegetable farmer, then the government gave me an opportunity to be part of the group involved with SA-GAP. I took part in that and training about food safety and how to handle food, processing and agro-processing,” she said. “That is when I thought of it and I got interested.”
Her interest in the new market was based on how consumers grew more interested in health and organic food. Inspired by this, research helped assist in steering her towards the production of chia tea bags.
Cheers to chia!
“I did my research about what plants to grow and I learnt about chia. I discovered that the maintenance is not difficult and even the harvesting. So, I launched an input enterprise and we now have a tea,” she said.
“Chia seeds are very scarce and right now people are very conscious about their health, even globally. People want to know what they are drinking and why they are drinking it.”
Matsose comes from the small farming town of Makwassie near Wolmaransstad which falls within the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality. On the farm that she runs with her family, she currently practises mixed farming with livestock, maize, sunflower and different vegetables. Although this is going well, she really wishes to focus on the production of chia seeds and tea made from chia plants.
Where it all started
She was selected as one of the eight graduates of the SA-GAP certification programme in 2022, and through the assistance of her benefactors and the government, Matsose was awarded a package of marine containers (12m) equipped with steel sinks, tables and shelves.
She also received a mobile cold room from the department, harvesting crates and packaging/processing equipment.
The SA-GAP programme aims to help subsistence farmers access international and local markets through the production of products that comply with the safety and quality standards of the market.
12 months packed with training, skills empowerment
Within the 12 months of training, farmers were taught farm management practices and received training to comply with legislation on food safety, environmental protection, and animal and workers’ welfare.
They were also assisted in mobilising the financial means for realising necessary infrastructural and other related investments in the agricultural value chain. The programme ensures health and safety to consumers and helps producers gain gradual recognition and acceptance from mainstream commercial markets.
Matsose’s dream is to see herself dominating the sector, particularly with her organic tea, having a tea-producing plant, and supplying the international market. Currently, she has three permanent workers and five seasonal workers, and she dreams of reducing unemployment in her area by expanding her business in the next five years.
“I am grateful for what the department has done for me. Through this SA-GAP, I have learned a lot about farm management, data recording, traceability of products, financial management, food safety and handling and a whole lot of other stuff in this business,” said Matsose.
How to be part of the SA-GAP programme
Communication services directorate, Emelda Setlhako, explained that farmers who are part of the programme must understand the need, requirements and advantages of being certified, be fully committed to participating in the programme, be willing to implement the recommendations from the auditors, be in production, and utilise available production facilities to their fullest.
“The producer must also be willing to continue with production in the new production season/cycle), have access to irrigation water, land and other basic production infrastructure, and have production infrastructure which is in reasonably good condition,” she said.
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