North West’s first crop of newly trained smallholder potato farmers is in! Now equipped with skills learned from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), these small-scale and subsistence farmers are eager to start producing food for their own households and surrounding communities.
The nine farmers’ training in Mahikeng was thanks to the North West department of agriculture and rural development under the umbrella of its Food Security Strategic Plan (FSSP).
While both the theoretical and practical training were provided by the ARC, the department supplied potato seeds, fertiliser and other chemicals.
Less than 1% of total production done by black farmers.
Speaking at a harvest day event in Ramatlabama last week, agri MEC Desbo Mohono commended the farmers for completing their training. She said that, due to the high associated cost, less than 1% of total potato production in South Africa is done by black farmers. That is why the department stepped in to “unlock” the industry for black farmers.
“The high input costs should not deter our farmers to forge ahead because once in, rewards are [great],” she said. The department also hopes that this project will aid potato production as a food-security measure, to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”.
Potato farmers, ARC thankful
One of the beneficiaries of the project, Mosidi Morule of Ramatlabama, thanked the department and their mentors, Dr Lerato Matsaunyane and Flip Steyn from the ARC, for taking them by the hand. “We are grateful and appreciate what the department and the ARC have done for us. It was not an easy one but here we are today. We managed!”
She vowed on behalf of her colleagues to use the knowledge acquired from the training programme to mentor others in the community.
Matsaunyane thanked the department for initiating the project, which will not only see farmers being trained but will also contribute towards food production and job creation in the province.
The department hopes that the programme will serve as a model for increasing potato production in North West. It undertook to support the newly trained farmers going forward.
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