In 2018 the Sernick Group and The Jobs Fund partnered to launch the Sernick Emerging Farmers Programme in the Free State. The initiative is a comprehensive intervention in which emerging black farmers are recruited, trained, set up and provided with supply opportunities through integration into Sernick’s value chain.
A total of 660 farmers (Tier 1) are being recruited, given SETA accredited training and an opportunity to exchange their old stock with good quality cattle that fetch higher prices at the market. A total of 300 farmers (Tier 2), selected from the 660, are currently being equipped with technical skills to enable them to develop their own herds while maintaining healthy cash flows to meet their working capital requirements. Another 50 farmers (Tier 3), from these 300 farmers, will be upskilled into viable commercial entities with their own reproductive capacity. These Tier 3 farmers will also be given the opportunity to acquire shares in Sernick Wholesale, a new company that will be established to consolidate the group’s wholesaling operations.
On the 12th of April 2019 the first six of these 50 full commercial farmers officially signed the contract to this partnership. “I am honestly humbled and honoured to have been selected to be part of this partnership. I believe it’s a step closer to becoming a commercial farmer and contribute towards our country’s food security. As a young first generation farmer, it gives me the much needed support and assurance that I’m moving in the right direction through the mentorship of a company like Sernick,” said Mojalefa Mashao, one of the Tier 3 farmers that signed his contract.
Jacqui Middleton is another Tier 3 farmer: “We’re honoured to be part of the Sernick Tier 3 selection and even more excited to be learning from Sernick as we understand the importance of mentorship, especially by a credible company. This contract will enable us to fulfil a lifelong dream – to become commercial beef farmers.”
Farmers can’t apply to become Tier 3 farmers but are selected from the existing participants once they have successfully completed the training in Tier 2. “I started my Tier 1 training with Sernick after hearing Nick Serfontein speak at the NAMPO Harvest Day in 2017. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the programme and move through the training tiers which have given me valuable exposure on every level of farming. I’m grateful to the Sernick Group and the Jobs Fund for entrusting me with the opportunity,” stated Ernest Setlogelo, a fifth generation farmer accepted into the Tier 3 group.
Tier 3 farmers must fulfil the following conditions:
A candidate for Tier 3 must be a fulltime farmer with enough land to farm with more than 100 cattle. The farmers must own land or have a formal lease for more than 20 years. These farms are inspected by an independent surveyor to assess whether the farmers have implemented the formal training received. The farmers must have the necessary plans and financials to indicate that they are is farming in a viable fashion, implementing sustainable farming practices such as rotating grazing pastures and demonstrating the ability to manage his or her farm successfully, among other things.
The farms will be visited monthly where mentoring and record keeping will take place on the farm. In Tier 3 Sernick will endeavour to assist the farmers to seek additional funding from financial institutions by assisting with business plans.
The Tier 3 farmers will exchange the unproductive and old cattle and buy improved genetics if required. They will also benefit from a rental herd of 35 cows and a bull that belong to the Jobs Fund Programme. The rental will be repaid by returning 40% of the offspring annually and until the original rental herd becomes unproductive and is sent to the abattoir.
The programme will also pay for the supplements and medicines in the first year and the farmers will benefit from the infrastructure that will ensure that they can function as commercial farmers.
With this initiative, the aim is to not only empower emerging farmers but also to create sustainable jobs within communities. Therefore, the Tier 3 farmer will not only have to create a sustainable employment opportunity for him/herself but also for three assistants.
The success of each farmer is dependent on the work and effort they put into the opportunity as Zacharia Matli explains: “I see Tier 3 as a door that has been unlocked for farmers, like myself, that are willing to work hard and have a vision and mission of where they want to be as commercial farmers. For me it has been an eye opening experience and I personally want to thank the Sernick Group for the opportunity that they’ve given me and my family. Not only did we gain invaluable knowledge that will help us make a success of this opportunity, but they have instilled in us the importance of hard work through their example.”
The full list of Tier 3 farmers are as follow:
2. Zacharia Matli
3. Mojalefa Mashao
4. Solomon Mosoeu
6. Jacqui-anne Middleton