Top tips to help farmers ace CASP funding application

Booysen’s Tunnel Farming Managing Director, Byron Booysen (29) farms with farms with cocktail and beef tomatoes in Kraaifontein, Cape Town.

Booysen’s Tunnel Farming's big boss, Byron Booysen (29). Photo: Food For Mzansi

With the application deadline now fast approaching, chief director for farmer support and development in the Western Cape, Jerry Aries, urges up-and-coming farmers to avoid common application mistakes in their quest to acquire funding to level-up.

Aries tells Food For Mzansi that farmers and agripreneurs with potential often make grave mistakes when applying for government’s Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP). CASP was first introduced 16 years ago to, among others, produce higher levels of productive efficiency, create on-farm and off-farm jobs, and increase income levels in the rural economy.

Jerry Aries, acting director of farmer support and development at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. Photo: Supplied

Today, CASP funding is availed to small-holder farmers with viable plans to create employment opportunities in agriculture, agri-processing, and for the improvement of infrastructure of small-scale farming projects. CASP is a national initiative, but the deadline for applications processed by the Western Cape is on 31 July 2020.

“The other purpose is to get farmers market-ready and to give them access to markets,” says Aries. He adds that many of the applications received by his office come from extensive animal producers, with the costliest projects often from applicants in the fruit, vineyards, grain, and table grapes industries.

While the main focus is providing funding to marginalised groups, they often fail, Aries admits. Farmers not having access to land remains the biggest hinderance. Also, poorly thought-out business plans, incomplete applications, and missing documentation are some of the pitfalls that hinder applicants from acquiring this funding. Extension officers will be able to guide applicants through the processes, though.

A former CASP beneficiary is the 31-year-old hydroponics farmer Byron Booysen, the managing director of Booysen’s Tunnel Farming in Kraaifontein in the Western Cape.

For Booysen and his team, the CASP funding gave them access to much-needed skills and knowledge, and it enabled them to materialise production inputs, infrastructure, and to successfully fulfil their business plan objectives.

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Booysen says, “Six years ago, we started with four multi-span greenhouse structures, and (we are) now expanding to three bigger multi-span structures. This will allow us to enter more established markets because of our high production output, create more jobs. It also makes us more sustainable and attractive for agro-processing possibilities.”

Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape minister of agriculture, with hydroponics farmer Byron Booysen. Photo: Supplied

During a recent visit to Booysen’s farm the Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyers, reiterated the importance of investing in youth in agriculture, with CASP being one such initiative.  Meyer says, “My recent visit to this youth tunnel farmer, who is a recipient of funding as well as extension and advisory support from the department, once again confirmed that our youth remains our greatest asset. It is certainly encouraging to see how these young people are making a difference in the agricultural landscape.”

Dr ivan Meyer reiterates the importance of investing in youth in agriculture

According to Aries the CASP funding is aimed at subsistence farmers (who can either apply for community or household projects) and small-holder or black farmers with a lease agreement of at least nine years. This commodity-based approach was enacted by the Western Cape government in 2009.

Booysen describes government investment in his future as a source of hope. “All our dreams can be possible if we know there is an epicentre of hope. And it’s agriculture.”