Collaboration of partners from two different value chains enabled a group of twenty smallholder farmers from the Free State to diversify from livestock farming to also include vegetable farming.
The SA Agri Academy and the Sernick group entered into a collaboration agreement in 2018 to develop the emerging farming sector in accessing and developing new opportunities for mixed farming. The partnership created the ideal opportunity to achieve the common goal as both partners have a focus on a value chain approach in the development of smallholder farmers – Sernick on livestock and SA Agri Academy on vegetables.
The first twenty livestock farmers from Sernick entered into the Market Access Development Programme (MDP) of Agri Academy in 2019. The focus of the MDP, as an accredited skills programme, is to develop smallholder farmers through training and coaching based on all components of a vegetable market-driven value chain. Classroom training was hosted under the guidance of expert trainers/coaches. Sustainable mixed farming was the outcome of this diversification opportunity and intervention. During the training, the farmers were also introduced to role players in the value chain with whom they can foster relationships as suppliers to their farming operations.
According to Lina Keyter, MD SA Agri Academy, this partnership focussing on diversification, also ensures food security, improved nutrition, assists with rural employment creation, and the effective usage of arable land which was not productively used. There is also mitigation of risk by focusing on more than one product group. The success of developing sustainable smallholder farmers lies in solid partnerships, says Lina. Partnerships that can contribute expertise and funding to collectively create an enabling environment for development and growth. These partnerships must include both the public and private sector as was showcased in this programme. Lina also conveyed her gratitude to the PPECB for funding this programme.
According to Pinki Luwaca, Human Capital Executive of the PPECB the aim of their smallholder farmer development programme focuses on the training and up-skilling of smallholder farmers from designated groups, to see them graduate from subsistence to commercial farming. The PPECB is proud of the success of its partnership with SA Agri Academy which has been running since 2019, that specifically focuses on women, youth, and people with disabilities. To date, 102 farmers have benefited from the programme where each farmer is trained in aligning their production to meet the market and client demands.
In addition, they are introduced to the SAGAP standards which gives the farmers insight into the SAGAP programme and certification that PPECB runs with the provincial departments of agriculture. The PPECB plays an active role with the provincial departments of agriculture ensuring SAGAP compliance of smallholder farmers, whereby their sustainable market access opportunities are broadened. Promising smallholder farmers are also identified to be nominated into other government developing farmer programmes.
According to Petro Naudé, Sernick Project Manager, this has been a memorable and game-changing experience for the beneficiaries of the Sernick Farmers Development Programme. Sernick would like to thank both SA Agri Academy and the PPECB for this valuable partnership and hopes to extend this partnership to other provinces. These long-term sustainable projects need diversification and improved cash flow which this partnership was able to offer.