Practical transformation

In his budget, former Minister Pravin Gordhan allocated large sums to improve the lot of small-scale farmers, while Fetsa Tlala will supposedly “boost domestic food production and reduce reliance on imports”.

All great stuff. Let’s hope it works because our farmers – large and small – need all the support they can get. But what will happen ‘on the ground’ when implementation begins? We’ll have to wait and see. My cynical side can’t help but wonder if the election didn’t play a role in the budget allocation.

Taking up the challenge
Closer to home – the markets – I came across a good example of how private enterprise is supporting small-scale farmers. I have long urged market agencies to offer mentoring services to small-scale fruit and veg farmers. One took up the challenge a few years ago. It appointed a ‘field officer’ to call on small-scale farmers and assist them with basic, but important, issues such as grading and packing. In many cases, he delivers their cheques from sales on the market and, I’ve no doubt, promotes the market agency to the farmers.

One day, some of them will become commercial growers with increased quantities of fresh produce to be marketed, so helping them now and building loyalty with them makes sense. As I’ve said before, the trust relationship between farmer and market agent is the ‘oil’ that makes the ‘fresh produce engine’ work.

The next level
This same company has now taken its mentorship to the next level and will soon be offering structured workshops on a variety of relevant marketing topics to groups in selected areas of Gauteng and Limpopo. What’s great is that this more formal training is not simply a once-off thing, as happens in many cases. It’s enhanced by the continued support of the company’s mentoring service.

Those trained will have their newly acquired knowledge continually reinforced instead of being lost through lack of post-training support. The minister’s grand schemes are fine, but when it comes to getting the job done, it’s hard to beat a genuine businessperson who’s looking to the future.