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Masisizane helps emerging farmers in drought-stricken areas find solutions

Kokstad – Providing access to resources, support and land is key to enabling emerging farmers to weather the worst drought in decades.

This was made evident when about a hundred small-scale farmers in rural KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape met recently to jointly find solutions to the issues confronting them. The meeting was hosted by Old Mutual’s Masisizane Fund, which provides loan finance and development support for small to medium enterprises.

Delegates described how the impact of the drought is compounded by lack of resources and knowledge of commercial farming, and agreed that, among other things, they need to be capacitated to be able to manage the finances and governance of their farms.

The farmers also concurred on the importance of access to established markets, and the ability to increase the size of their projects, as well as diversifying their crops so they can plant throughout the year.

Chief Executive Officer of Masisizane Simpiwe Somdyala told the farmers: “Our hope is that in five years, the emerging farmers in this area will have sustainable businesses that are able to create jobs and are working with other partners like banks that will help them grow their businesses.”

Masisizane Fund has invested about R100 million in the Alfred Nzo region, mainly towards assisting co-operatives in the area working in agriculture. The co-operatives also receive grants from the government.

This season, different communities in the Alfred Nzo and Harry Gwala Districts have planted about 850 hectares, mainly soya beans instead of maize because of the drought.

Economies of scale are also crucial, noted Masisizane’ s Andrew Makenete, who encouraged the emerging farmers to prioritise finding more land to grow their businesses.

“For projects to make money they need to have a minimum of 150 hectares and if they are co-operatives they should plant a minimum 300 hectares. That’s the only way the projects will end up being commercial,” said Makenete.

Also supporting farmers as they tackle the challenges of moving from small-scale farming to commercial farming are the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture, Grain-Co, SEDA, and Barloworld.