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Free State farmers are reaping the fruits of agribusiness transformation

Positive signs point to the emergence of a growing body of black farmers in the Free State who are showing the potential to successfully make the transition from small-scale farmers to commercial agribusinesses.

“We are proud of the progress made by farmers who have formed part Agribusiness Transformation Programme since its inception three years ago. With the right partners, the obstacles emerging farmers face in working towards commercial status can be overcome,” says Brendan Jacobs, Standard Bank’s Head of Business Client Coverage in the Free State and Northern Cape.

“The program is built around three pillars necessary to progress farmers to commercial status. These include access to information, access to markets and access to finance.One of the biggest barriers to the growth and sustainability of up-and-coming farmers is a lack of farming and business skills”, he says.

This skills gap is directly addressed by the Agribusiness Transformation Programme, launched in 2019 as a partnership between Standard Bank, the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of the Free State. We are very proud of the progress made and the way all partners on the program are collaborating to ensure its success.

The programme is aimed at emerging farmers who have at least three years of farming experience, either own their own land or farm on rented land and live permanently on their farms. With an annual intake of 25 farmers per year across various geographies in the Free State, the programme has gathered momentum with the 2019 and 2020 cohorts having completed and recently graduated from their classroom and practical training.

In the first year, each farmer on the programme has regular training sessions with lecturers, trainers and mentors, who enable the participants to improve their business skills and expand their knowledge of farming, including animal management, crop production, water and soil management and pasture management. This is followed by two years of mentorship, with each emerging farmer collaborating with their local Standard Bank relationship management and agricultural teams as well as the industry experts from the University of the Free State and the department.

Adding to the value of the programme is that the knowledge transfer is not one-sided. “The trainers and mentors also learn about the farmers’ successes and the challenges they face, which is knowledge that can then be ploughed back into the programme to benefit the next intake of participants,” he says. For details about the next intake of the programme,contact Thabo Hlongwane at Thabo.hlongwane@standardbank.co.za

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