A 28-year-old agriculturist is spearheading Grain SA’s influential Farmer Development Programme in the Eastern Cape. Sinelizwi Fakade was attracted to farming from a young age and today he makes waves, getting to help emerging farmers in his home province.
“The rural development space has also been something close to my heart. Mainly because I really do believe changing lives, uplifting rural areas as a rural individual, is something that can never disappear from my DNA,” says Fakade.
Grain SA is an association providing South Africa’s grain producers with commodity strategic support and services.
Fakade grew up in a part of Mthatha called Upper Tabase Administrative Area. He was raised by his mother, Lindelwa Mabande, and uncle Mzuvukile Justice Mzozoyana. “My mother, who is a single parent, sacrificed everything that she has. She was a teacher by profession with assistance from my uncle, but it was a real struggle growing up,” says Fakade.
He is not the only one in his family with an agricultural interest. Fakade says his younger brother Anovuyo and sister Sibabalwe also got bitten by the “agri bug”. “My brother is completing his Master’s in Food Security and Policy and my younger sister is now also entering her first year at Cedara College of Agriculture.”
Through his mother’s sacrifices, Fakade had the opportunity to go to St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown as the foundation of his academic career. He says he took agriculture as a subject from grade 8 and matriculated in 2009 from Weston Agricultural College in Mooi River, KwaZulu Natal.
With his eyes already set on the agricultural sector, Fakade enrolled at Cedara College of Agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal and obtained a diploma in agriculture. He sees education as a key contributor as a way of developing himself. For this reason he is furthering his studies.
“After Nelson Mandela University (NMU) where I completed my BTech in Agricultural Management, I completed my Bachelor of Agriculture Honours degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and that gave me more rural development exposure,” says Fakade.
Since then he has also completed his Masters of Agriculture in Food Security and Policy and is currently heading towards his PhD in either sustainable agriculture or food security and policy.
In 2016, Fakade joined Grain SA and now serves as a provincial coordinator. “My job within the province is to promote the farmer development programme through the farmers, but over and above it’s to create partnerships.”
Fakade is assisted by 21 junior agricultural mentors who recently graduated. The mentors visit farmers on a weekly or monthly basis, making sure that they are achieving what they have set out to achieve. He explains that the aim is to commercialize rural areas on a per hectare basis under the ethos of the programme. This means that it’s not about the size of the land, it is about how many tons they can harvest per hectare commercially.
“Our programme ideally is to mentor, train and to uplift the skill level of farmers. That’s through improved production practices exposing farmers to production inputs that are quality, changing the ways they do land preps, and making sure that they understand what they are trying to achieve,” says Fakade.
The joy of farmers going back to the soil, changing lives and self-motivation is what motivates Fakade.
He says it is his dedication, commitment and outright passion for his work and what he does that keeps him going every day. “To achieve what I want to achieve as an individual, but also to contribute to the overall transformations of my province from an agricultural perspective. These are key lessons that carry me through the day as a person leading the programme in the province as well as leading my team.”
Looking ahead Fakade wants to be a well-respected farmer in the Eastern Cape. He says it is here where he wants to make an impact and contribution towards rural commercialization and agricultural economic growth.