“We have moved on from pap. We also bake bread and my children showed me how make a kind of a flat cake – you know, a wrap which you fill with vegetables or meat.”
So says Nokuthula Khoza, a small scale farmer in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal.
Life on the farm has changed for her now that her maize yield per acre has more than doubled – which means she has maize available for sale, apart from feeding her cattle, sheep and chickens. And her family. “Of course,” she says, “we also cook the green mealies, or heat it over a fire.”
She doesn’t do the wrap often. Only when the children and their friends come to visit. But the bread is popular. She grinds the maize, adds a touch of salt, some flour, yeast and a bit of margarine.
The trick is to knead it thoroughly and be patient when baking. It takes time.
Khoza and her husband’s farming operations changed when they joined Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme. Grain SA is an association providing South Africa’s grain producers with commodity-strategic support and services.
“They taught us more about farming, helped us with better seed and crop protection material from Bayer,” she says. Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the life sciences fields of heath and care and agriculture.
“We women don’t have to hoe anymore! Life is so much easier now,” she laughs.
“The government’s Jobs Fund helped with a small subsidy, but we had to match that sum to show we’re committed. Finding the money – a set amount per hectare – was very difficult in the beginning but now that we have a much bigger crop it is much easier,” says Khoza.
They – and all participants in the Farmer Development Programme – get regular visits from mentors, who act as advisors. The subsistence farmers all form part of local study groups who meet to discuss challenges and listen to lectures. The programme, which has been running for three years, is measurably successful – there are more small farmers involved, more hectares planted, yields have increased dramatically, and food security enhanced.
The next step is to enhance value to the maize where matters like transport, safe storage and marketing become a priority. Grain SA is heading up this thrust, again in partnership with Bayer. But in the meantime, Khoza and all other programme participants can work on the maize in their homes and prepare to bake and prepare an exciting range of meals.