Good governance and accountability are two of the core values of Grain SA, and we regularly visit our members at grass roots level, especially in the run-up to our annual congress this month. Accordingly, I would like to share a few observations I made while talking to our farmers in different regions. A strong sentiment of ‘we belong here’ was evident and the meetings were well-attended.
I saw farmers concerned about how Grain SA’s affairs are managed, and judging by the questions they put forward, it was obvious they were willing to be accountable. This is a clear sign of a healthy organisation. The way that difficult issues, such as the location differential and the diesel rebate, were debated in an open meeting made me proud.
It was also gratifying to see younger farmers attending meetings and asking questions. This is good news for food security. It felt good to be part of a team who can present a case and information with confidence – people who can see a better picture of the future and who are not scared to create a vision of a better tomorrow for the sake of the next generation.
I also witnessed how committed Grain SA members were to ensuring that this vision becomes a reality.
Grain SA wants to lead and has an abundance of good leaders. The delegates attending the congress, meetings and organised industry structures were people who could express themselves, offer their experience and were not afraid to share their best practices. This ensures technology and skills transfer, not only within a family – between a father and his sons – but also among farmers, both developing and commercial.
The degree of transformation reached by Grain SA and how the organisation has adapted to meeting the needs of grain farmers can be measured in various ways. For example, while most meetings were conducted in English and Afrikaans, four were hosted in Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho. Addressing members in their mother tongue remains one of the most important tools for breaking down the walls that separated us in the past.
I would also like to salute those who serve as mentors for our developing farmers. They are the true builders of the real South Africa, not the ‘new South Africa’ we are currently experiencing. Walking a second mile with those they help is an important characteristic of these mentors.
I saw a group of optimists – grain farmers who put millions of rand into the soil of our country and then wait faithfully upon the Lord to provide the rain and a crop. We can plant, fertilise and weed our lands, but only God can make them grow. The rain that fell in the first week of February was like an injection to all our members, boosting their optimism. We can only pray that more will fall to see all the crops through.
Finally, I saw a group of grain farmers who pleaded for a way to resolve South Africa’s land reform issues. This plea came not just from commercial farmers, but from members farming on communal land. I saw farmers who wanted to contribute towards finding a workable way forward. The silly season will come to an end on 7 May, and we look forward to working with the new administration to help resolve the sector’s burning issues.
Grain SA will bring the attributes I’ve mentioned – faith, eagerness, optimism and a sense of belonging – to the table and help find ways forward towards the real South Africa. The current one is most definitely not the country we were dreaming about in 1994!
The views expressed in our weekly opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Farmer’s Weekly.