Farming in South Africa seems as fractured as it’s ever been. From the negative newspaper headlines comes a public perception that the farming community is divided and that the story of land is one of heartache, anger and resentment. But for the past 20 years, farmers of Grain SA have looked deep into their own souls and reached out even deeper into their communities to try to prove that farmers have their own solution to land reform.
And they’re making it work with a R25 million a year operational budget and managing a further R120 million worth of projects on a farming development programme that is changing lives. This development programme, a privately funded collective through Grain SA, is aimed entirely at new black farmers.
It now supports 12,859 black subsistence farmers –half of whom are women– from nine offices nationwide, and it has already created 171 new black commercial farmers producing 250 tons or more of maize annually.
'Healing South Africa, not dividing it''
Driven by their belief to use farming to heal South Africa rather than divide it, Grain SA sponsors mobile units that travel into the most rural communities to offer clinics to teach skills, such as welding, grinding and painting, as well as how to service a tractor or repair farm equipment.
The programme has spawned a partnership with the science and technology department to develop small portable threshers so that these farmers can harvest their crops without having to work their thumbs till they bleed.
And another partnership with Sasol provides these farmers with bags for their harvest so that it doesn’t lie on the ground where it is subject to a mould that can cause serious illness. But most importantly, this programme gives the subsistence farmers access to 90 of South Africa’s most successful commercial farmers who serve as their mentors.