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Centre to enhance excellence in agriculture
2008-05-09

 

At the launch of the Centre for Excellence were, from the left, front: Ms Lesego Sejosengoe, Manager: Indigenous Food, Mangaung-University Community Partnership Project (MUCPP), Ms Kefuoe Mohapeloa, Deputy Director: national Department of Agriculture; back: Mr Garfield Whitebooi, Assistant Director: national Department of Agriculture, Dr Wimpie Nell, Director: Centre for Agricultural Management at the UFS, and Mr Petso Mokhatla, from the Centre for Agricultural Management and co-ordinator of the Excellence Model.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

UFS centre to enhance excellence in agriculture

The national Department of Agriculture (DoA) appointed the Centre for Agricultural Management within the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS) as the centre of excellence to roll out the excellence model for small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME’s) for farmers in the Free State.

The centre was launched this week on the university’s Main Campus in Bloemfontein.

The excellence model, which is used worldwide, was adapted by the Department of Trade and Industry as an SMME Excellence Model. The DoA then adapted it for agricultural purposes.

“The excellence model aims to assist farmers in identifying gaps in business skills. These gaps will be addressed by means of short courses. It will help to close the gap between the 1st and 4th economy,” said Dr Wimpie Nell, Director of the Centre for Agricultural Management at the UFS.

The UFS – as co-ordinator of the SMME Excellence Model – the DoA, the private sector, municipalities, small enterprise development agencies, and non-governmental organisations will be working together to enhance excellence in agricultural businesses in the Free State.

The benefit of the model is that it changes the mindset of emerging farmers to see agriculture as a business and not as a way of living. Dr Nell said: “We also want to create a culture of competitiveness and sustainability amongst emerging farmers.”

“The Free State is the second province where the model has been implemented. Another four provinces will follow later this year. Altogether 23 officers from the DoA, NGO’s and private sector have already been trained as facilitators by the Centre of Excellence at the UFS,” said Dr Nell.

The facilitator training takes place during four contact sessions, which includes farm visits where facilitators get the opportunity to practically apply what they have learnt. On completion of the training facilitators use the excellence model to evaluate farming businesses and identify which skills (such as financial skills, entrepreneurship, etc.) the farmers need.

The co-ordinator from the Centre of Excellence, Mr Petso Mokhatla, will monitor the facilitators by visiting these farmers to establish the effectiveness of the implementation of the model. Facilitators must also report back to the centre on the progress of the farmers. This is an ongoing process where evaluation will be followed up by training and re-evaluation to ensure that successful establishment of emerging farmers has been achieved.

According to Ms Kefuoe Mohapeloa, Deputy Director from the national Department of Agriculture, one of the aims of government is to redistribute five million hectare of land (480 settled people per month) to previously disadvantaged individuals before 2010. The department also wants to increase black entrepreneurship in rural areas by 10% this year, increase food security by utilising scarce resources by 10%, and increase exports by black farmers by 10%.

“To fulfill these objectives it is very important for emerging farmers to get equipped with the necessary business skills. The UFS was a suitable candidate for this partnership because of its presence in the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGISA). With the Jobs for Growth programme, ASGISA is an important extension to the Centre of Excellence and plays a major role in the implementation of the model to improve value-chain management,” said Ms Mohapeloa.

Twenty facilitators will receive training in June and another 20 in October this year. “The more facilitators we can train, the more farmers will benefit from the model,” said Dr Nell.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
8 May 2008

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