BuaNews (Tshwane)

21 November 2008

South Africa: Experience Farmers Transfer Skills in the North West

Skilled farmers in the small community of Jerico in the North West are doing their part to ensure emerging farmers learn the necessary skills to manage their own farms, writes Kagiso Metswamere.

The skills shortage in the farming sector is a major concern in the North West where farming contributes a big portion to the provincial economy. While new land owners are eager to make their land productive, they lack the necessary experience.

Responding to the challenge, a group of five experienced farmers have pooled together under the African Farming Franchise project to train emerging farmers on how to produce vegetables.

The project, run on 400 hectares of land, currently has ten students attending the year-long training.

Chief Executive Officer of the project, Henk Auret told BuaNews that they started the project to create a business model for emerging farmers in the province.

"We started this project with the planning phase in October 2006 and the actual work started this year in April in the community of Jerico.

"We are happy with the way the project is going so far. The people we are training are hard working and appreciate what we are trying to do."

He said they had wanted play a role in ensuring that the transfer of skills takes place, especially to help to those who need support the most.

Mr Auret said there was a great need for government and the private sector to support emerging farmers in the North West. "I must mention that there are emerging farmers who are really passionate about getting into this industry but lack the necessary support to do so."

Pick and Pay is the main funder of the project, contributing R21 million towards the establishment of it. In turn, the vegetables which are produced at the farm are sold mainly to Pick and Pay to sell in their stories.

Mr Auret said a shortage of water and lack of funding were the main challenges at African Farming Franchise.

"Water is the main problem in this area especially when there is no rain and temperatures are high. We need more money to ensure that as we expand our project to plant more vegetables we do not experience challenges," he said.

Trainee, Anna Bendlele, 47, of Jerico told BuaNews that the project has taught her many things about crop farming and that the project would benefit her a great deal.

"Since I started in this project I have learnt a lot of things about farming different vegetables including, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin and potatoes.

"I have learnt how to prepare soil and take care of all the vegetables we planted in this project and most interestingly I have learnt how to drive a tractor," Ms Bandlele said.

Sekgana Mosala, 36, said she would establish her own farm and further assist her community with its produce.

"I joined this project in August 2006 after realising that I don't have the necessary skills in crop farming. We were involved in the first phase of the project starting from fencing the land, how to build a store room, the preparation of the soil and planting the vegetables," he told BuaNews.

Visiting the project as part of government's Imbizo Focus Week recently, North West Premier, Edna Molewa encouraged the trainees to keep on working hard so as ensure a better life for themselves and their communities.

Ms Molewa said the project was one of the best vegetables projects in the province and proper support from government must be given.

"We are impressed. I hope that all the trainees here will use the skills acquired to improve the lives of people in their communities," she said, adding that the North West Provincial Government has recently shown interest of supporting similar projects.

Jackie Maiketso, 29, a trainee supervisor mentioned that even though they were experiencing few challenges, they also learnt how to produce good vegetables even under difficult situations.

"The challenges that we have has not stopped us from producing good vegetables, that what we learnt in practical at this training," he said.

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