A five-year, multi-pronged programme which brings together government, academia and the private sector’s financial expertise has been launched in the Free State and aims to enhance the delivery of crucial skills to black farmers involved in the production of crops and livestock. Supported by the faculties of Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development at the University of the Free State and funded by Standard Bank, the programme is believed to be the first of its type in South Africa. Farmers have already been identified by the Free State’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In a unique approach to transformation and development, commercial farmers are given the opportunity to hone their skills both on and off their farms, says Nico Groenewald, Head of Agribusiness at Standard Bank. “The objective is to ensure that farmers receiving financial assistance become sustainable to the point where they can source funding for growing their operations from the traditional banking sector”.
“The Agribusiness Transformation Programme is aimed at impacting 60 farmers engaged in primary agriculture and 15 in secondary agriculture - an activity that includes processing outputs from contracted farmers, small-scale milling, the operation of feedlots and similar activities” adds Diale Mokgojwa, Senior Manager for Enterprise Development at Standard Bank.
“The intention of the project is to fill agriculture’s ‘missing middle’ and enable small-scale farmers to become viable commercial enterprises that have the potential for further growth. Presently, there is a dearth of these medium-sized operations in South African agriculture”, Diale concludes.
The programme is relevant since participants in Free State farming activities are ageing, the numbers in the sector is declining and food security relies primarily on production from large commercial farming operations. “The development of this sector and creation of medium-sized enterprises is vital to the future of food production in South Africa,” says Groenewald.