Potato producers make a direct contribution to the progress that has already been made to put black producers in the potato industry on the road to obtain commercial potato producer status through PSA’s Enterprise Development Programme. Other industry role-players, who took cognisance of the transformation successes, are increasingly becoming more involved with the activities of PSA.
Transformation in the potato industry goes much further than just black producers and communities that plant potatoes. The tertiary skills pipeline makes provision for bursaries to be awarded to students for obtaining agricultural-related qualifications that focus on potato production. Up to the 2018 academic year, 119 bursaries have been awarded to students for graduate and postgraduate studies. The value that this adds to the expansion of the industry’s pool of knowledge cannot be over-stated. Furthermore, farm based training is also on offer and includes aspects such as tractor maintenance, forklift training, pack house training and first aid to equip farm labourers to do their work.
The goal of the Enterprise Development Programme is to assist in setting up, supporting and growing viable new black owned potato producing enterprises while the objectives are:
<li>To develop an economic programme that is aimed at sustainable potato production by small holder farmers in order to utilise available land and assist to optimise the maximum benefit of an integrated production system.</li>
<li>To develop small holder farmers to grow and produce commercially in a sustainable way.</li>
Through the Enterprise Development Programme, PSA has been supporting new black commercial farmers for the past seven years. The initial engagement with the farmers was that PSA will 1) provide seed of between 3 and 5 ha, 2) provide training where necessary, 3) provide technical support and 4) expose the farmer to the industry through the new farmer induction initiative. Linked to budget availability, PSA also committed to supporting 6 farmers per year for 4 years on a sliding scale basis (Y1 = 100%, Y2 = 75%, Y3 = 50%, Y4 = 25%).
Based on the support model described above, there were a number of challenges that farmers experienced; the major one being access to finance and machinery. The mechanics of the model above imply that all farmers participating in the Enterprise Development Programme will need to have own funding for chemicals, fertilizer, labour and also access to machinery. Over and above this, they still had to contribute towards their seed cost as the years progressed.
Lack of own finance to produce potatoes profitably and in a sustainable manner resulted in the following:
<li>As the farmers progressed in the programme, the number of hectares decreased. They only had access to seed which was contributed by PSA and seldom made the contribution towards seed cost as per the requirement of the programme.</li>
<li>The tonnage produced by these farmers was not on par with their commercial counterparts and this could be attributed, amongst others, to insufficient fertilizer and chemicals being applied.</li>
<li>The farming venture not being sustainable due to a lack of technical expertise in potato production.</li>
The above necessitated PSA to adapt the programme by focusing on the expansion of hectares of existing farmers.
A lot of effort and time has been put in ensuring linkages with other role-players in the industry. PSA has been working very hard to forge partnerships with different organisations that can play a role in making the Enterprise Development Programme sustainable. Farmers are only receiving support in terms of seed, training and mentorship and these linkages will allow them to have access to the other resources required.
PSA entered into partnership with NTK in the Limpopo area and successfully sourced funding from the Jobs Fund. Four (4) farmers are benefiting from the funds received from the Jobs Fund. NTK is fully involved in the implementation of these projects and all these farmers have access to all the resources required. The relationship with NTK has also opened doors for most farmers in Limpopo as they can now access inputs on credit from NTK if required. This has been a big challenge in the past where farmers struggled to obtain credit, which in turn impacted negatively on their sustainability.
Welkom farmers in the Free State have also benefited from the linkages that PSA has with the Free State Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). PSA provided seed support only and DAFF assisted the farmers with chemicals, fertiliser and machinery. DAFF also boosted the farmers’ contribution towards their seed cost. This contribution was welcomed by the farmers who were not able to plant during the previous season due to drought experienced in the area.
The Small Grower Development Programme involves communities who plant potatoes mainly for food security with the remaining crop sold to the immediate community. The main goals of the Small Grower Development programme are:
<li>To disseminate production and business information through trials.</li>
<li>To provide farmers with practical training on good potato production practices.</li>
<li>To utilize cultivar or demonstration trials as a way of educating, training and disseminating important production information necessary for successful potato production.</li>
An amount of R233 000 was spent towards Small Grower Development in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and the Western Cape. The Small Grower Development Programme receives strong support from DAFF in these provinces. Seventeen (17) projects were supported during the year under review and each Information Day was attended by an average of 60 people, making the total number of extended beneficiaries to over a thousand (1000).
The PIDT annually awards bursaries to deserving students studying towards an agricultural related qualification with the emphasis on the potato production. The undergraduate bursary programme is primarily aimed at developing the skills of young talented students at existing potato enterprises. Their development is done through tertiary education at universities and agricultural colleges.
The postgraduate bursary programme, on the other hand, is aimed at making a contribution towards ensuring that there are enough postgraduates to address the relevant research areas affecting the industry as well as increasing the industry’s pool of appropriate qualified scientists. The Research and Development Core Business, together with the Transformation Core Business, are jointly responsible for funding and identification of the postgraduate students. The Technology and Human Resources for Industry Program (THRIP), a joint flagship research and development programme of the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Research Foundation (NRF), has contributed R1 million to the Tertiary Skills Development Programme over three years. In addition, the success of the programme has also led to a boost in the funding of R750 000 by AgriSETA for bursaries.
The Internship Programme is primarily aimed at providing experiential training opportunities to bursary recipients whose study disciplines require practical training and exposure as part of their qualification. The workplace programme is aimed at providing students with the opportunity to obtain workplace experience to enhance their employment opportunities. PSA received an additional amount of R180 000 towards the Internship Programme.
Following the skills audit conducted in 2014/2015, which highlighted some skills shortages/gaps amongst the Enterprise Development farmers, financial management training took place in the following provinces:
The training was well received by farmers based on the review of the course that was done through an evaluation form. Farmers indicated that they have a need to receive this type of training in the form of refresher courses. They also indicated that they still require further training in terms of other aspects of the farming business to ensure that their business venture is a success.
<strong><u>Training of commercial farmers’ employees </u></strong>
PSA, through its Transformation Core Business, continued to partner with AgriSETA to ensure that employees of commercial farmers receive training. An amount of R500 000 was received from AgriSeta and was utilised in the different regions for the following training courses:
<li>Health and safety</li>
<li>Leadership for hope</li>
AgriSeta once again approved an amount of R499 575.00 for the 2017/2018 financial year. Regional Managers will assist in rolling out the training in the regions they are operating in.
<strong><u>Commodity Project Allocation Committee in the Western Cape</u></strong>
PSA continues to play a leading role in the vegetable Commodity Project Allocation Committee (CPAC) which is the initiative of DAFF in the Western Cape. The main role of this committee is to allocate the grant funding to vegetable projects that meet the set criteria. During the year under review, R10 million was distributed to qualifying vegetable projects through this committee. The involvement of the commercial potato farmers has been valuable as they bring practical experience which assist in decision making and approval of funding.