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Emerging farmers on agribusiness programme deliver yields equal to those of commercial farmers

• Nedbank, GWK partnership delivers highest yields ever recorded in Taung and illustrates how transformation in the agricultural sector can be commercially viable

• Use of precision farming (applying technologies and new methods) to manage and improve crop performance.

Agriqua Holdings (Pty) Ltd, a programme that was established by Northern Cape-based Agricompany GWK in partnership with The Nedbank and Old Mutual Black Business Partners (BBP) Legacy Programme is an example of how emerging farmers can be developed successfully and in turn contribute to growing the economy and transforming the agricultural sector. Through this programme, 88 small-scale farmers in Taung in the North West have been empowered to cultivate more than 900 ha of land with some of the farmers delivering maize, cotton, wheat and barley yields that are equal to those of commercial farmers. GWK is a South African public agricultural company based in the Northern Cape with a shareholder base of approximately 4 000 commercial farmers.

Jaques Hugo, Head of Agriqua Holdings at GWK says that ‘Through providing the farmers with enhanced access to technology, capacity building, sustainable energy, effective irrigation tools as well as ensuring increased resilience and risk mitigation, the programme over the three-year cycle, has delivered the highest yields ever recorded in Taung.’

Established in 2019, Agriqua’s objective is to develop emerging black farmers to enable them to achieve commercialisation and ultimately participating in the agricultural value chain. Through the Nedbank Old Mutual Black Business Partners (BBP) Legacy Programme, R6 million has been invested in Agriqua over a three-year period (2019-2022), specifically covering input costs for farmers participating in the programme. Business Partners (BBP) Legacy Programme includes Nedbank, Old Mutual and their partners WIPHOLD and Brimstone. The programme aims to enable sustainable development projects through the provision of patient capital over favourable time periods and with minimal or zero interest charged.

Thuso Mokwa, Nedbank’s Regional Manager of Agriculture says, ‘By providing access to capital and financing, we’re supporting the programme to achieve its goal, which is not only to enable the commercialisation of farmers, but to ensure the inclusive participation of all players across the agricultural value chain. This programme is aligned with our purpose, which is to use our financial expertise to do good and has the potential to provide massive positive social, community and economic benefits for the area.’

To date, Agriqua has created 298 seasonal and 12 contracting and farming support positions. This is particularly pertinent as the overall unemployment rate in the Taung area is 49,8%, and 61,7% among the youth.

The programme works by providing business development support and specialist technical support through mentors and specialised precision farming expertise to 88 emerging farmers (grew from 21 farmers) with 900 ha (grew from 210 ha) under management. Each farmer is allocated a minimum of 10 ha with the objective being to support these emerging farmers to achieve commercialisation and enable them to participate in the agricultural value chain. The programme’s key focus areas are entrepreneurship, skills development, and job creation. Agriqua also places a big focus on precision farming, which is applying technologies and methods to manage and improve crop performance.

Jaques Hugo explains; ‘To effectively mitigate the effects of extreme weather, climate change, disease and other environmental impacts, our focus is the utilisation of precision-farming techniques. This includes ensuring that the soil is assessed to determine which crops are most suitable to grow, that variables like weather forecasts for that season are taken into consideration, and that we are applying technologies and methods that will enable the farmers to achieve the best agricultural production.

“Another key component of Agriqua is that it acts as both an agribusiness development programme and a marketplace by leveraging off the GWK ecosystem to ensure the farmers’ sustainability and scalability. GWK guarantees 100 % of the farmers production with a take-off agreement at SAFEX or market related prices.

Going forward, Agriqua aims to grow the number of beneficiaries, which is currently at 88, to 120 emerging farmers with a specific emphasis on upskilling women and the youth in the sector.

Mokwa concludes: ‘It is through initiatives such as Agriqua that rural communities are transformed from places that people migrate from in hopes of better opportunities, to places where locals can earn decent livelihoods, better their skills, strengthen their knowledge, and make valuable contributions to our economy.’

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