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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

Oxford professor unlocks secrets of DNA
2017-03-31

Description: Oxford professor unlocks secrets of DNA Tags: Oxford professor unlocks secrets of DNA

From left are: Dr Cristian Capelli, Associate Professor
of Human Evolution at Oxford University;
Dr Karen Ehlers, Senior Lecturer and Prof Paul Grobler,
both from the Department of Genetics at the UFS.
Photo: Siobhan Canavan

Many people are interested to know more about their history and origins, and with the help of genetics, it is possible to provide more information about one’s roots.

During a lecture at the Department of Genetics at the University of the Free State (UFS), Dr Cristian Capelli, Associate Professor of Human Evolution at Oxford University in the UK, addressed staff members and students on the history of our species.

Reconstructing the history of human population
With his research, titled: People on the move: population structure and gene-flow in Southern Africa, Dr Capelli looks at reconstructing the history of human populations, focusing mainly on how the different human populations are related, as well as how they exchange genes.

He said this research could be of great significance to the medical field too. “Knowing what the genetic make-up of individuals is, can give us some information about their susceptibility to diseases, or how they would react to a given medicine. Therefore, this knowledge can be used to inform health-related policies.”

Combining individual histories of multiple people
To understand this research more clearly, Dr Capelli explained it in terms of DNA and how every individual receives half of their DNA from their mother and half from their father just as their parents had received theirs from their parents. And so it goes from generation after generation. Each individual stores a part of their ancestors’ DNA which makes up the individual genetic history of each person.

“If we combine these individual histories by looking at the DNA of multiple people, we can identify the occurrences that are shared across individuals and therefore reconstruct the history of a population, and in the same way on a larger scale, the history of our own species, homo sapiens.

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