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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

Childhood obesity should be curbed early
2017-03-15

Description: Child obesity Tags: Child obesity

Serious intervention by parents is required to deal
with childhood obesity. Prof Louise van den Berg and
a group of final-year PhD students worked on a study
about the prevalence of obesity in six-year-olds in
South Africa.
Photo: Supplied

If your child is overweight when they start school at the age of six, unless you do something about it at that point, the indications are they are going to be overweight teenagers and obese adults. This is according to University of the Free State’s Prof Louise van den Berg.

Evidence has shown that overweight children and teenagers have a greater risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life, and dying prematurely.

Obesity is a global pandemic rapidly spreading among adults and children, in developed and developing countries alike.

Dr Van den Berg worked with Keagan Di Ascenzo, Maryke Ferreira, Monja-Marie Kok, Anneke Lauwrens, all PhD students with the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, to conduct the study. Their research found that children who are overweight by the time they turn six should be screened for weight problems.

Why six-year-olds?
Children who are overweight between the ages of two and five are five times more likely to be overweight when they are 12. There are two periods in a normal life cycle when the body makes new fat cells. The first is in the uterus and the second is around the age of six. The second phase lasts from the age of six to puberty.

The study assessed the prevalence of obesity in six-year-olds as part of a campaign in South Africa to raise awareness of the problem among parents and educators.

A total of 99 children were chosen from seven schools in Mangaung, the capital city of Free State. The schools were chosen from quintile four and five schools, which when measured by their own resources and economic circumstances, are well resourced and serve largely middle-class and wealthy communities.

The children’s weight, height and waist circumference were measured and used to calculate a body mass index score and waist-to-height ratio. Both these figures are good predictors for future lifestyle disease risks such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. A person with a good waist-to-height ratio can wrap a piece of string equal to their height around their waist at least twice.

When the children had a higher body mass index, they also had an increased waist to height ratio. The study found one in four children from the schools surveyed were overweight when they started primary school.

Nipping the fat in the bud
Although there are many factors that play a role in preventing childhood obesity, parents’ perceptions of their children’s weight play an important role. A recent study found that more than 50% of parents underestimate the weight of their obese children. These parents remain unaware of the risks their children face and are not motivated to take any action.

At least half of the parents whose children are overweight struggle to recognise their children’s weight problems fearing that they will be labelled or stigmatised. By the time they turn six overweight children should be referred to dieticians and nutritionists who are qualified to guide their parents in getting them to eat well and be more physically active at pre-primary and primary school.

The high prevalence of weight problems among six-year-olds found in this study is an urgent call to healthcare professionals to step up and empower parents, educators and children with the necessary skills for healthy dietary practices and adequate physical activity.

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