A partnership between small-scale farmers and a farmer incubator has helped a farmer situated in the Upper Tabase village in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, his 30- hectare small-holder farming project into a commercial farm. Mveleli Mhlonitshwa sells maize to feedlots, animal feed producing companies and his local community.
The Ukhanyo Famer Development incubator is a 36-member strong business that helps subsistence and small-scale farmers grow into commercial farmers. In partnership with the Eastern Cape’s Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR) as well as private sector partners, the incubator is currently working with 600 farmers and is made up of 32 women and operates in the Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo, Joe Gqabi, Chris Hani and Amathole district municipalities of the Eastern Cape.
Mhlonitshwa said Ukhanyo Farmer Development has helped improve the productivity of his farming activities by supporting him with production inputs as well as mentorship. The incubator supported Mhlonitshwa with seeds, fertilizers and machinery to grow his farm. Mhlonitshwa who started as a small-scale farmer in 2011, is now harvesting about 8.6 tons per hectare of maize. “When I started farming, I was harvesting about four tons per hectare,” he said.
Chairperson of Ukhanyo Farmer Development, Sinelizwi Fakade, said mentorship is done by members of the incubator who all hold a higher education qualification that is agriculture-related. The mentors work with the farmers on a daily basis. They share technical knowledge on farming and guide the farmers on how to produce the best harvest. The incubator has managed to turn ordinary small-scale farmers into successful commercial farmers.
“Out of the 170 farmers we worked within the previous farming season, we managed to grow 15 farmers from subsistence and small-scale farming to commercial farming. In the previous season, the farmers planted on 300 hectares of land and on average harvested 4.8 tons of maize per hectare,” added Fakade.