There’s a proud history of farmer development within the VKB group, writes senior agronomist Albert Kriek. He says the end goal has always been to see new-era farmers operate independently and sustainably into the future.
Sustainable farms that can stand on their own feet. This is the essence of VKB’s approach to farming development; the end goal of its assistance to around 120 farmers’ crop and livestock projects in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
Through its many years of involvement in farming projects, spotless audits and experience in project management, VKB is inextricably part of South Africa’s farming development environment.
Farming Development, with its headquarters in Reitz, is a division of the VKB group and has a wide footprint in Limpopo and the Eastern Free State. Through VKB’s wide network of trade and mechanisation branches, as well as grain supply points, it ensures accessibility and the meeting of all their needs to new-era farmers.
Thanks to VKB’s historical and ongoing involvement, it is not uncommon for new-era farmers to achieve significant successes, to cross the frontiers of commercial farming and to start farming sustainably.
A complete package of support
The approach with VKB’s development programmes is to support farmers with a complete package of input supply (in partnership with other role players), financing, training, mentoring and marketing.
An important component of this is to support farms with financing and technical advice through comprehensive seasonal planning and budgetary control.
Considering that sustainability and a holistic approach is vitally important, new-era farmers are thus also supported with structural and soil improvements such as contours and the application of lime, as well as with their mechanisation needs. Without these additional support, long-term production and growth will not be able to thrive in the long run.
Working and learning simultaneously
With the farm-level involvement of VKB mentors, the farmer is supported in everything that happens on the farm. The farmer develops best through doing and applying as he learns.
VKB agricultural and marketing services, in partnership with commercial farmers, are further examples of VKB support, which is critically important for new-era farmers’ success.
Regarding inset acquisition, farmers are exposed to and advised on inset suppliers within the industry, but the choice of which product to use, lies with the farmer. Input exposure teaches the farmer to exercise choice with discernment and confidence.
The financing risk with these farmers are usually high, as most of them don’t own any securities. A strong emphasis is thus on meticulous financial planning and budgetary control.
A programme by farmers, for farmers
VKB has played a leading role to establish a local centre for Partners in Agri Land Solutions (PALS) in the Free State. SA PALS is a national movement which strives to promote cooperation and partnerships between commercial and new-ear farmers and to expand grassroots relationships between the two sectors.
The government, agri businesses and financial institutions are also involved in extensive support programmes as part of the PALS initiative.
What sets PALS apart, is that the concept was developed by farmers, for farmers, and that mentorship forms and remains an essential building block.
VKB has a long-term vision to play a relevant role in the future in reforming the local agricultural industry and farming development overall. VKB has the knowledge, experience, skill and capacity to fulfil this role effectively and to make a positive difference within the agricultural sector.
- Albert Kriek is a senior agronomist at VKB Agricultural Development.
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