As part of its ongoing commitment to the development of black farmers, FarmSol Holdings in collaboration with South African Breweries (SAB) this morning donated brand-new tractors and farming equipment to 32 producers to the value of R 8 million in Taung, North-West.

One of the beneficiaries, Sipho Sibinda, who farms mainly maize and other crops on his share of the 320 hectares, received the donation during a FarmSol ceremony at the premises of the Ipelegeng Cooperative in the Greater Taung Municipality.

“Our prayers have been answered,” Sibinda said. “I would like us farmers to join hands and be one. Without food, there is no life, so let us be strong and grow this company.”

Sibinda’s farming journey started on a rough patch as he struggled to get contractors for farming machinery in Taung. He said the donation from FarmSol has changed his life.

“My life changed greatly because of FarmSol. I am now able to make a good profit. I bought a house and I’m able to take my kids to a good school, so I am very happy about this,” he said.

This joint effort by FarmSol and SAB aims to put the power back in deserving farmers’ hands and to raise labour and farm productivity. It is part of an R8-million investment in black growers by SAB and FarmSol’s sought-after grower support programme. It also underscores FarmSol’s long-standing efforts to ensure that access to mechanisation and the latest technologies do not become barriers holding back new-era farmers.

Aron Kole, Managing Director of FarmSol said the Taung mechanisation handover demonstrates true empowerment, allowing the farmer to determine their own successes and craft the future they want to see for themselves.

“It restores the hope and dignity of despondent people who have access to land and now at long last, they can make use of this land. This is something very significant,” said Kole. “Tractors and farm equipment have the power to bring a farm to life and to enable food production that feeds millions. These tools, however, are the most expensive items you can find on the farm and SAB and FarmSol have made it possible for the farmers to say they too are owners.”

Zoleka Lisa, SAB vice president of corporate affairs, adds that SAB is pleased to see the strides that farmers are making in Taung and across South Africa. “As a business, we are dependent on high-quality agricultural crops from thriving communities and healthy ecosystems to brew our beers. We also care about the people who make this happen and have worked hard to support existing and emerging farmer communities to gain access to agronomic information and best industry practices. This includes harnessing technology’s power to improve crop yields and productivity. We’re proud of the relationships we’ve created with our South African farmers, and we are grateful for the highest quality ingredients farmers provide us.”

FarmSol aims to turn smallholder farmers into sustainable commercial producers. Since the company’s inception in 2016, thousands of small holder and newly-commercialising farmers have been supported through innovative funding, market access, extension services, and mechanisation solutions.

In total, more than R800 million in production loans have been granted to qualifying farmers across eight provinces in South Africa.

North-West has not been very good at maximising its agricultural potential, said Kole. Yet, it is an important contributor to the Southern African food basket with more than 20% of South Africa’s maize crop produced in the province.

Other agricultural products produced in the province include cattle, poultry and game, sunflower seed and oil, nuts, citrus and tobacco.

The province is home to three distinct climate regions which allow a wide variety of agricultural activity. The drier western region is home to considerable cattle and game farming and hunting, while the central and southern parts are dominated by maize and wheat farming and the production of cash crops. Furthermore, the eastern and north-eastern region receives a fair quantity of rainfall to accommodate the cultivation of a variety of crops.

Experts believe that North-West holds enormous potential for agricultural development, which could bring new entrants to the agricultural sector and create much-needed jobs.

Despite this, an estimated 43.9% of the province is categorised as arable land. Moreover, smallholder productivity has not improved much due to many underlying factors.

FarmSol believes that for the province to realise its full agricultural potential, access to mechanisation and technology is fundamental. “Without farm power and the appropriate complementary tools, implements and machines, farmers struggle to emerge from subsistence production. The small-scale farm sector demand for mechanisation needs to be raised to increase the agricultural potential of farmers in Taung. This will raise farm productivity and encourage private-sector investment,” he said.

According to Kole, the Taung mechanisation handover is the first of many farmer development initiatives on FarmSol’s 2023 calendar. The company looks forward to delivering on its operational targets of building local farmer suppliers while maximising socio-economic impact remains a priority for the business.

It also intends to further solidify the strategic relationships that FarmSol has with its partners, including SAB, Siqalo Foods, the Maize Trust, the South African Cultivar and Technology Agency, the Oilseed and Protein Development Trust and Oilseed Committee.

“Our key mandate of commercialising emerging farmers and improving farmer livelihood while leaving a social footprint of job creation and inclusive growth, is bearing fruit.

“We are proud of these achievements and contributions and remain proud of the level of success our farmers have attained over the years. More needs to be done to support more up-and-coming farmers, especially the youth who remain eager to farm. However, many are still subjected to even bigger barriers to enter the sector,” Kole said.