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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 erosion research help determine future of dams
2017-03-07

Description: Dr Jay le Roux Tags: Dr Jay le Roux

Dr Jay le Roux, one of 31 new NRF-rated
researchers at the University of the Free State,
aims for a higher rating from the NRF.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

“This rating will motivate me to do more research, to improve outcomes, and to aim for a higher C-rating.” This was the response of Dr Jay le Roux, who was recently graded as an Y2-rated researcher by the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Dr Le Roux, senior lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of the Free State (UFS), is one of 31 new NRF-rated researchers at the UFS. “This grading will make it possible to focus on more specific research during field research and to come in contact with other experts. Researchers are graded on their potential or contribution in their respective fields,” he said.

Research assess different techniques
His research on water erosion risk in South Africa (SA) is a methodological framework with three hierarchal levels presented. It was done in collaboration with the University of Pretoria (UP), Water Research Commission, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and recently Rhodes University and the Department of Environmental Affairs. Dr Le Roux was registered for 5 years at UP, while working full-time for the Agricultural Research Council – Institute for Soil, Climate and Water (ARC-ISCW).

Water erosion risk assessment in South Africa: towards a methodological framework
, illustrates the most feasible erosion assessment techniques and input datasets that can be used to map water erosion features in SA. It also emphasises the simplicity required for application at a regional scale, with proper incorporation of the most important erosion-causal factors.

The main feature that distinguishes this approach from previous studies is the fact that this study interprets erosion features as individual sediment sources. Modelling the sediment yield contribution from gully erosion (also known as dongas) with emphasis on connectivity and sediment transport, can be considered as an important step towards the assessment of sediment produce at regional scale. 
 
Dams a pivotal element in river networks

Soil is an important, but limited natural resource in SA. Soil erosion not only involves loss of fertile topsoil and reduction of soil productivity, but is also coupled with serious off-site impacts related to increased mobilisation of sediment and delivery to rivers.

The siltation of dams is a big problem in SA, especially dams that are located in eroded catchment areas. Dr Le Roux recently developed a model to assess sediment yield contribution from gully erosion at a large catchment scale. “The Mzimvubu River Catchment is the only large river network in SA on record without a dam.” The flow and sediment yield in the catchment made it possible to estimate dam life expectancies on between 43 and 55 years for future dams in the area.
 
Future model to assess soil erosion
“I plan to finalise a soil erosion model that will determine the sediment yield of gully erosion on a bigger scale.” It will be useful to determine the lifespan of dams where gully erosion is a big problem. Two of his PhD students are currently working on project proposals to assess soil erosion with the help of remote sensing techniques.

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