New public-private partnership to address skills shortages in agriculture

BKB has formalised a joint venture agreement with government through the Coega Development Corporation for an R11-million wool and mohair training and skills development programme.

Both organisations aim to fast-track the inclusion of emerging wool and mohair producers in the formal economy to unlock the enormous economic potential of the industry for South Africa’s GDP, while simultaneously addressing unemployment, rural poverty and critical skills shortages affecting wool and mohair industries.

According to Isak Staats, BKB’s wool and mohair manager, two systemic barriers are limiting the true economic potential of South Africa’s wool and mohair industry.

“Critical skills shortages for the wool and mohair processing is hampering emerging farmers of communal farming co-operatives in the former Transkei and Ciskei. Because of incorrect shearing and wool classing practices the quality, price and marketability of wool and mohair is often affected adversely,” he said.

“On the other hand, the shortages of skilled shearers is compelling established South African commercial wool and mohair farmers to use around 1,700 foreign national shearers from neighbouring African countries every year.”

Staats believes that if emerging livestock farmers are up-skilled, supported and capacitated to participate in production and agro-processing, the wool and mohair industry’s current annual GDP contribution of R2,7 billion can be significantly increased over the next five years.

“If this segment of the market [emerging farmers] is unlocked, South Africa’s market share of global wool and mohair exports will move from the current 5% to 8-10%,” he said.

Through their partnership, BKB and CDC will recruit 338 beneficiaries from historically disadvantaged communities for a one year, technical shearing and wool classing training programme in PE and Kroonstad jointly funded by both organisations.

The programme and initiative flows from the recent success and outcomes of a R8-million BKB-funded pilot at the agribusiness’s newly established shearing college, which has already provided training and employment to 120 beneficiaries from historically disadvantaged communities. Additional training and skills development are now underway to further capacitate learners to become sustainable production and processing of wool and mohair.

To engender sustainable and responsible transformation of agriculture

Jacobus Le Roux, BKB’s marketing and corporate relations manager, said BKB has and always will be committed to developing, empowering and supporting emerging wool and mohair producers to engender sustainable and responsible transformation of agriculture.

“The production, processing and export of wool and mohair is critical to the economy of the country, to our business and also to thousands of emerging producers and workers that depend on the sector.

“Poverty is inter-generational and widespread in Eastern Cape rural communities, and with 40% of the South Africa’s entire small livestock population roaming the former Transkei and Ciskei, there is an opportunity to grow commercial agriculture in the region in order to reduce socio-economic inequalities and poverty.

“BKB will continue to support and invest in initiatives that empower. Already through our extensive outreach and capacity building programme in excess of 24,000 rural communal producers are under our wing, benefitting from our technical assistance, market access and production finance,” he said.

CDC’s executive manager for corporate services Advocate Zuko Mapoma was highly optimistic over the shearing skills development and training initiative during the signing ceremony with BKB’s chairman Chris Louw.

“Our partnership with BKB is founded on the corresponding need for job creation and skills capacitation. CDC is always on the lookout for industry leaders with extensive experience and networks in South African economic sectors, and BKB is a world-leader in agriculture,” said Mapoma.

“Our involvement in this programme with BKB is a collaboration that will create jobs for those who are unemployed. The envisioned outcome is that the critical and scarce skills will be transferred,” he concluded.


CUT signs MOA with Free State farming project

Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) recently entered into a three-year renewable agreement with Mokhachane Community Property Association (CPA), a farming project in Wesselsbron.

The Memorandum of Agreement signed between the two parties means that Mokhachane CPA will open its doors to a number of CUT Agricultural Management students to conduct research and/or undergo practical training on their farm as part of their Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Programme. “The agreement entered into is in response to the industry needs, and hopefully it will create job opportunities for the students upon conclusion of their training,” said SW MoKhachane, Director of Mokhachane CPA.

In bringing the balance, CUT will provide access to its experienced staff with expertise in the field, who will ensure successful implementation, smooth running and completion of these projects. “Most of us are aware of the desperate state in which our agriculture industry is in. Therefore initiatives such as this will bring change not only to the lives of our students, but to the society at large,” said Professor D Umesiobi, Head of the Department of Agricultural Management at CUT.

The renewable agreement is scheduled to end in January 2017.

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Agricultural sector – the lifeblood of South Africa

Agriculture has always been an important industry in South Africa and together with mining and manufacturing forms the backbone of the South African economy.

The agricultural sector in South Africa is divided into commercial farming and subsistence-based farming, mainly in the rural areas of the country. Thanks to its seven climatic regions, farmers are able to produce a variety of marine and agricultural products, including livestock and game, grain, wool, fruit and wine.

Livestock is the largest agricultural sector in the country with the main focus on cattle and sheep. Dairy is produced throughout the country with more than 4 000 milk producers employing around 60 000 farm workers.

As a meat-loving nation, beef farming plays an important agricultural role with South Africa producing 85% of its meat requirements. However, production cannot keep up with local demand and as a result 15% of our meat has to be imported from Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and even further afield. South Africans have also developed a taste for white meat and consequently chicken is now one of the country’s largest agricultural imports. Sheep and goat farming, poultry and pig farming and game farming form part of livestock farming in South Africa.

The grain industry is one of the largest agricultural sectors representing between 25% and 33% of the country’s total gross agricultural production. Maize is most widely grown and is also the most important source of carbohydrates in Southern Africa. It is produced mainly in the central regions of South Africa in the Free State, North West and Mpumalanga highveld. Other grain crops include wheat – the second largest locally produced field crop, sunflower seeds, barley, sorghum and soya beans.

South Africa is the ninth largest wine producer in the world. More than 99 000 hectares of vines producing wine grapes are under cultivation. There are six wine producing regions in the Western Cape, and another four geographical units in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. South African wine exports have more than doubled between 2003 and 2013 and some 275 600 people are employed both directly and indirectly in the wine industry.

The types of fruit produced in South Africa can be classified as deciduous, citrus and subtropical. Deciduous fruits, including apples, pears and peaches, are mainly produced in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Cold winters and dry summers create the perfect climatic conditions to grow these crops. Tropical fruits, such as pineapples, bananas, avocados and mangoes are grown mostly in the northeast and some coastal areas. South Africa also has a thriving citrus industry, with more than half of citrus production exported in most years.

Other crops grown by South African farmers include vegetables, sugar, cotton, tobacco and tea (honeybush and rooibos).

It is clear that the South African agricultural industry not only plays an important role in the South African economy, but also feeds its people and the people of Africa. Considering the fact that the South African population is expected to grow to 82 million by 2035, we cannot afford to neglect this

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The South African agricultural sector has a notoriously bad history of labour relations, arguably because it was built on slavery. With the dawning of a new era, where farmers are increasingly relying on agricultural machinery to farm economically, labour relations are even more threatened.

Farm workers often feel forsaken and done in when they get retrenched, especially in instances where their whole personal history is entwined with that of the farm and the farm owner. It is however often very difficult if not impossible for the farmer to maintain his workforce, as minimum wages is for many a farmer simply unattainable.

Nowadays many farmers choose agricultural machinery over manual labour, as they believe this might limit the chance of them fighting legal battles. They are often not prepared to employ people, as the potential human relations problems that this poses, outweighs the problems agricultural machinery might have, by far.

But agricultural machinery is an extremely expensive alternative. It’s not only the purchase price, but also maintenance, insurance etc. With the rising price of diesel, many a farmer is contemplating reverting back to human labour as opposed to agricultural machinery.

Meanwhile there is general consensus that children of farm workers should have access to excellent schools, so that they can profit from their own productivity. The enormous problem in South Africa of inadequate teaching facilities as well as badly trained and often unenthusiastic teachers remains unresolved.

With an improved education system the children of farm workers might even become the engineers involved in the development of more efficient and cost effective agricultural machinery.
It is also interesting to note that recent data released by Stats SA suggested that the agricultural sector went a far way in realising the target set to the sector by the National Development Plan in terms of creating one million additional jobs. Dawie Maree, FNB Agriculture: Head of Information and Marketing says that according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey data for the first quarter of 2015, the sector created 183 000 jobs compared to the same period in 2014 and 150 000 jobs compared to the previous quarter. Total employment in agriculture is currently estimated to be just under 900 000. However, Stats SA redesigned the Master Sample, a process routinely undertaken by statistical agencies.
According to Maree the Q1 figures for 2015 were estimates based on the 2013 Master Sample, while the other figures are still based on the 2007 Master Sample. The changes are therefore influenced by the updated sample and we now have to wait for a few more quarters for these changes to take effect and to be able to again compare apples with apples.

Agricultural Equipment

It’s quite remarkable how, throughout the ages, the tractor has remained the best-known example of agricultural equipment. Although a huge variety of machinery finds its way to the farm, it is the faithful old tractor that defines the very essence of farming.

A tractor is a piece of agricultural equipment specifically designed to deliver high torque at low speeds, often for the purpose of hauling a trailer or other implements used in agriculture and also in construction.

According to Wikipedia the word tractor was taken from Latin, meaning “to pull”. The first recorded use of the word meaning “an engine or vehicle for pulling wagons or ploughs” occurred in 1901, displacing the earlier term “traction engine”.

Agricultural equipment may be mounted on or be towed behind the tractor, and the tractor may also provide a source of power, should the equipment be mechanized.

For a city slicker the most well-known manufacturer of agricultural equipment must surely be Deere & Company, with their brand name, John Deere. In 2014, it was listed as 80th in the Fortune 500 America’s ranking and was ranked 307th in the Fortune Global 500 ranking the previous year.

But John Deere does not only manufacture agricultural equipment, it also provides financial services and other related activities. They are for instance listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company’s slogan is “Nothing Runs Like a Deere”, and its logo is a leaping deer, with the words ‘JOHN DEERE’ under it. The logo of the leaping deer has been used by the company for over 135 years. Over the years, the logo has had minor changes. The company’s agricultural products are identifiable by a distinctive shade of green paint, augmented by yellow trim.

For the farmer who really wants to be noticed there are also other options such as the Lamborghini tractor, which is clearly designed for the super wealthy.

Another example is the Case IH Steiger 600 – something like a Bugatti in the world of tractors.

According to Ray Blessed the unique Big Bud 747, built in 1977 by the American company Northern Manufacturing, still remains the largest (50 tons, 4.27 meters in height and 8.1 meters in length) and the most expensive in the history of the tractor. Then it cost the customer $ 300 000. Today the figure stands at over 1.13 million dollars.

And yes, right up there with the cream of the crop in agricultural equipment, stands the John Deere 9560RT. The model is intended for plowing fields, and is equipped with a 560-horsepower engine.