PLANTING AND NURTURING THE SEEDS OF TRANSFORMATION IN THE POTATO INDUSTRY
The potato industry is an essential part of the more significant South African agricultural sector. Due to the historical context of the country, ensuring transformation occurs in the industry should be a priority for all stakeholders.
Potatoes South Africa (PSA), as the industry’s authority, is committed to building on the long-standing progress made to assist black and historically disadvantaged groups to obtain commercial potato producer status through PSA’s Enterprise Development Programme. Unveiling the second Enterprise Development Farmer of the Year award was the headline event of the gala dinner, following PSA’s sixth Transformation Symposium.
Sixth Transformation Symposium
The one-day Transformation Symposium brought together provincial government, academia, commercial farmers and industry institutions such as the Agricultural Research Council, under the theme of, “Towards sustainability and commercialization of new era farmers – embracing the future”.
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“The Transformation Symposium is a platform created for roleplayers to network and likewise for Potatoes SA to track the progress and successes that it has made. This platform further ensures that Transformation occurs within the industry,” says Ms Nomvula Xaba, PSA Transformation Manager.
Andre du Toit, representing Bayer, one of the event’s key sponsors, unpacked how investing in the efforts of potato farmers in South Africa is key to the company achieving one of its three sustainability targets, which aims at supporting 100-million smallholder farmers by 2030. As of 2020, 45 million farmers have received Bayer’s support.
The aim of the Enterprise Development programme is to assist new farmers in setting up, supporting and growing viable black-owned potato producing enterprises, while developing an economic plan that is aimed at sustainable potato production by smallholder farmers. Since its inception, close to R60 million worth of revenue has been generated and close to 800 direct and indirect jobs have been created.
Enterprise Development Farmer of the Year
The second, Enterprise Development Farmer of the Year, awards were held,where Aldrin Lawrence was announced as the winner. Aldrin Lawrence has created his own 30-hectare, mixed farming enterprise in the farming town of Buysdorp, which is located in the Vhembe district of Limpopo. He produces livestock, broiler chickens that supply the local Spar and vegetables, which includes potatoes and soybeans. This produce is sold in markets across Pretoria, Johannesburg and the Free State.
“To be successful as a farmer, you must have a well-diversified production plan. This is because potatoes are a rotational crop and potato production alone won’t make a farmer successful,” explains Lawrence.
Courtesy of the award, Lawrence takes home R65 000 worth of Bayer products along with an all-expenses-paid trip to Lilongwe, Malawi, in June 2022. Here he will attend the 12th Africa Potato Association (APA) conference, under the theme of, “Harnessing potato and sweet potato innovations for resilient and healthier agri-food systems”.
PSA’s Transformation Agenda
The presentations on Transformation delved into how PSA, as the mouthpiece for South African potato farmers, prioritizes transformation as one of its four core business areas, alongside research, information and marketing. The organization’s main transformation activities focus on the following four pillars:
- Enterprise development – the commercialization of ‘new era’ farmers
- Small grower development programme – targets issues of food security
- Farm-based training – aims to develop the skills of emerging farmers
- Tertiary skills development pipeline – the creation of a pool of students studying agriculture.
A survey held, asked the beneficiaries of the programme for feedback on what they deemed important to make their farming business sustainable. Business acumen came top followed by the need for greater support through mentorship, government support and access to machinery and equipment. To address this going forward, the scope of the Enterprise Development Programme will be expanded to target people who are already developing farmers, providing them with assistance up to the level of commercial farming, whilst leveraging collaborations with banks and input from suppliers and off-takers, so that the programme can be expanded beyond the potato sector to focus on farming holistically.
“We’re always eager to optimize our programmes to ensure they reach the largest number of people with the greatest amount of impact,” explains Xaba. “We appreciate all the industry roleplayers, who recognise the importance of driving transformation within the sector and continue to support the work of PSA in this regard.”
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