More than 50 Gauteng-based smallholder farmers who attended the workshop were eager to take advantage of the prospects presented in the programme. These small farmers in South Africa face multiple challenges which prevent their full participation in the modern economy. At the top of this list is limited access to credit and insurance, markets and finance for expansion. Farmers often find themselves waiting until the point of harvest before engaging the market. This compromises their ability to negotiate for better prices, ultimately affecting their sustainability.
Support from global partners encourages success
The Farmer2Market programme was established in partnership with LIMA Development Foundation, ICCO Cooperation, WWF and the Southern Africa Food Lab. The project is funded by the European Union, in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs.
In the workshop, Solidaridad’s Regional Fruit and Vegetable Manager, Johnson Bungu, explained the importance of partnerships in achieving the goals set out for this project. “During implementation, the project will bring together multi-stakeholders who have vested interest in growing the emerging sector such as major retailers, government, financial institutions, different agricultural input/services suppliers and development organizations,” said Bungu, while introducing GDARD, John Deere, PSJ & SAKATA Seeds, and Smart Inputs as partners for the day.
- Smart Inputs - Seama Seabela, service coordinator at Smart Inputs, an agro-solution company providing liquid lime and fertilizer, addressed farmers on the importance of soil health and plant nutrition. He demonstrated and explained how the latter could be achieved using newer technology and innovation in the agro-chemical space.
- John Deere - Patrick Kubyana, smallholder/emerging farmers market development manager, emphasized the important role mechanization and technology has played in agriculture development, locally and internationally.
- SAKATA Seeds - This company is one of the well-known and respected companies with a majority share in the seed market in South Africa. During the training, SAKATA presented some of the best vegetable cultivars grown in the country, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of certain cultivars for different regions and seasons.
- Solanaceae and Sweetcorn - Johan Stronkhorst, product specialist, said the secret for success is in knowing what the market wants and selecting the right cultivars suitable for a specific environment.
Compliance is key for international markets
Dr Cedric Baloyi, farmer relations manager at ICCO, a Farmer2Market implementing partner, described their role in addressing capacity building, access to finance and business development services to help farmers understand their role as entrepreneurs. Baloyi said the main challenge for emerging farmers in accessing formal markets is compliance with basic standards required by most retailers regarding food safety and traceability.
Gababoife Morake, of Aretotobeng Primary Cooperative in Eikenhof (Gauteng), said the challenge to complying with required standards was due to the lack of support for smallholders. Morake added that lack of access to facilities such as post-harvest, storage and processing facilities constitute barriers for them to enter into formal markets.
Mobile technology empowers individual farmers
Bungu said two mobile applications, “Farming Solution” and “Business Solution”, were designed by Solidaridad to address these challenges as well as increase efficiency, quality of yield and gather actionable insights about smallholder operations.
The primary objective of Farming Solutions is incentivizing the farmer to follow Good Agricultural Practices such as the correct use of fertilizers and sprays, as well as to advise farmers on good harvesting techniques relating to specific crops that will ultimately help farmers reach their expected yield. “This takes farmers a step closer to acquiring the Local GAP certification, which is the pre-request in accessing formal markets,” he explained.
The future ambitions of Farmer2Market
According to Bungu, similar workshops and training days are set to take place in other participating provinces such as Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu Natal. A total of 750 emerging small vegetable producers are targeted as beneficiaries to the project.
“The project is running for three years and is set to end in 2021. Our goal is to have supported 750 emerging farmers in obtaining entry-level group and/or individual accreditation, and able to participate in formal supply chains, thereby having higher net income of 30% and creating year-round employment for at least 3,750 rural poor,” concluded Bungu.