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17 May 2019 | Story Eloise Calitz | Photo Charl Devenish
Agribusiness Transformation Programme
At the launch of the programme during Nampo 2019 were, from the leftt: Anton Nicolaisen, Provincial Head: Free State and Northern Cape, Standard Bank; Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS; Mangi Ramabenyane, General Manager, Farmer Support and Development at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; Nico Groenewald, Head: Agri-Business at Standard Bank; and Bigboy Kokoma, farmer from Bothaville.


Bigboy Kokoma, a 33-year-old ‘young’ farmer, speaks with confidence and pride about his family farm in the Bothaville district. One hundred and forty-two hectares of land that has been in the Kokoma family since 2005 when his father established the farm. The farm specialises in livestock, mostly Bonsmaras, and vegetables. “I want to set an example to other young farmers and, through this, become an ambassador of inspiration to my generation.”

Bigboy has a Diploma in Financial Management. “Having this qualification is a step closer to understanding the financial management of the farm, but if you want to take the leap to become a commercial farmer, you need greater knowledge and understanding to get you there.”  He is excited to have been selected for the Agribusiness Transformation Programme, because this will bring him closer to his dream of becoming a commercial farmer, to contribute to the economy of South Africa, and it will assist him in taking his family legacy further.

He is one of 25 farmers in the country who was selected to take part in the Agribusiness Transformation Programme. The programme’s main objective is to develop black emerging farmers through structured, accessible, and relevant agricultural and entrepreneurship training in order to become economically viable commercial farmers that will have greater impact in the agricultural sector in the Free State.

Importance of agriculture

Globally, the agricultural sector faces multiple challenges: it has to produce food to feed an exponentially growing world population, with a smaller rural labour force, adopt more energy-efficient and sustainable production methods, manage limited natural resources and climate change, and contribute to socio-economic development. 
 
Agriculture is of fundamental importance, not only on a global scale, but also on the African continent; therefore, we are especially proud of the Agribusiness Transformation Programme that will, in the long run, enable 25 farmers to become productive and well-functioning agri-business contributors that provide solutions for the much-needed challenges in food security, job creation, and the development of agricultural products.
 
Value of strong partnerships

The programme is an initiative of the University of the Free State (UFS), Standard Bank, and the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. They believe that strong partnerships are needed in the development of black emerging farmers, and to drive change in the sector. What makes the partnership successful, is the multiple strengths and expertise that each partner provides.

The UFS has a strong Agricultural Sciences division, with experience in training farmers in formal undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, as well as short courses.  The UFS Centre for Development Support has a solid record of developing entrepreneurs and university’s Innovation Office is at the forefront of technology transfer.

“The UFS is applying its strengths in education, training, innovation and technology transfer to ensure the development of these 25 farmers. We are excited to take the lead in this program and to ultimately contribute to a productive and well-functioning agri-business sector in South Africa. The impact of the programme is wide and the future brings possibilities of developing a model that will be replicated in the rest of South Africa and Africa,” says Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS.

Standard Bank has strong expertise in financing the agricultural sector, stimulating enterprise development and SMMEs, and providing financial services to the public sector.  The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development provides services to farmers who have access to land.

Programme launched at Nampo 2019

The programme was fittingly launched at Nampo on 15 May 2019, bringing together leaders in agriculture, business, the media, and influencers in the sector to engage and meet with the 25 farmers. The discussion at the launch again reiterated the importance of this programme and the level of skills transfer this partnership will mobilise.



News Archive

Water research aids decision making on national level
2015-05-25

Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

With water being a valuable and scarce resource in the central regions of South Africa, it is no wonder that the UFS has large interdisciplinary research projects focusing on the conservation of water, as well as the sustainable use of this essential element.

The hydropedology research of Prof Pieter le Roux from the Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences and his team at the UFS focuses on Blue water. Blue water is of critical importance to global health as it is cleared by the soil and stored underground for slow release in marshes, rivers, and deep groundwater. The release of this water bridges the droughts between showers and rain seasons and can stretch over several months and even years. The principles established by Prof Le Roux, now finds application in ecohydrology, urban hydrology, forestry hydrology, and hydrological modelling.

The Department of Agricultural Economics is busy with three research projects for the Water Research Commission of South Africa, with an estimated total budget of R7 million. Prof Henry Jordaan from this department is conducting research on the water footprint of selected field and forage crops, and the food products derived from these crops. The aim is to assess the impact of producing the food products on the scarce freshwater resource to inform policy makers, water managers and water users towards the sustainable use of freshwater for food production.

With his research, Prof Bennie Grové, also from this department, focuses on economically optimising water and electricity use in irrigated agriculture. The first project aims to optimise the adoption of technology for irrigation practices and irrigation system should water allocations to farmers were to be decreased in a catchment because of insufficient freshwater supplies to meet the increasing demand due to the requirements of population growth, economic development and the environment.

In another project, Prof Grové aims to economically evaluate alternative electricity management strategies such as optimally designed irrigation systems and the adoption of new technology to mitigate the substantial increase in electricity costs that puts the profitability of irrigation farming under severe pressure.

Marinda Avenant and her team in the Centre for Environmental Management (CEM), has been involved in the biomonitoring of the Free State rivers, including the Caledon, Modder Riet and part of the Orange River, since 1999. Researchers from the CEM regularly measures the present state of the water quality, algae, riparian vegetation, macro-invertebrates and fish communities in these rivers in order to detect degradation in ecosystem integrity (health).

The CEM has recently completed a project where an interactive vulnerability map and screening-level monitoring protocol for assessing the potential environmental impact of unconventional gas mining by means of hydraulic fracturing was developed. These tools will aid decision making at national level by providing information on the environment’s vulnerability to unconventional gas mining.

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