The KwaZulu-Natal Rural Farmers Association (KZNRFA) said on Monday that a bottom up approach was necessary to deal with the problems farmers faced and maximise the sector’s production rates in the province. Credit Joao Silva/The New York Times
DURBAN -  The KwaZulu-Natal Rural Farmers Association (KZNRFA) said on Monday that a bottom up approach was necessary to deal with the problems farmers faced and maximise the sector’s production rates in the province. 

Mfundo Thango, the chairman of the Agriculture Sector Education and Training (AgriSETA), said training was of foremost importance to agriculture entrepreneurs at ground level. 

“We provide training to rural based farmers but still have funding challenges as we still depend on AgriSETA’s funding,”  said Thango. 

KZNFRA harbours ambitions to become a fully-fledged agricultural institution in the future providing agriculture focused education. It was currently limited by the lack of sufficient funding.

Thango said the most ideal situation was if resources and programmes were directed to emerging farmers at the ground level, who had a proven track record but only needed resources.

Statistics South Africa’s first quarter results showed that the country’s gross domestic product contracted by  more than 2 percent with the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry contracted by over 24 percent  and contributed -0,7 of a percentage point to gross domestic product growth. 
The decrease was mainly attributed to the drop in the production of field crops and horticultural products. The sector had shown strong recovery last when it increased production by more than 33 percent. 

LIMA Rural Development Foundation programmes manager Kathy Pitout said that they had worked with emerging farmers and provided support.

“We provide technical support, access to input supplies and marketing. We also provide them with a fair amount of training to be farmers. As soon as you start working with farmers and increasing production production of farmers, obviously the market linkages become more and more critical as you increase smallholder production necessitating a top-down approach to establish agreements. You need the retailers right from the start who have skills to link small scale producers with marketing opportunities,”  said Pitout.

University of Zululand agriculture department dean professor GE Zharare said that the bottom up approach mightnot work in some cases as the technology that was required.  “Most of the farmers do not know the potential of their land and that their environment would give them and sometimes grow the wrong crop,”  said Zharare.  

“We need to sit down with the farmers(small-scale) and discuss with them their problems, needs and input with them what their area would support. That would be a better solution than having them directing what should be done.”

- BUSINESS REPORT