Agri Enterprises Comprehensive Mentorship Programme in Partnership with i3A

Agri Enterprises, the commercial arm of Agri SA, partnered in June 2021 with the International Agricultural Academy for Africa (i3A), in their Comprehensive Mentorship Programme (CMP).

The implementation of a Comprehensive Mentorship Approach through this development programme was successfully presented by Agri Enterprises to the AgriSETA towards the end of 2020 and related to the approval and signing of a funding agreement between the parties.

The objectives of the CMP are:

  • To further the implementation of projects and programmes identified in the National Development Strategy as National priorities.
  • To assist the AgriSETA more specifically to implement its Sector Skills plan, and
  • To conduct a research programme through collecting data and completing questionnaires on demographic information, household information, production data on the various enterprises with the aim to produce a high-level research report with recommendations to benefit the National Development Strategy.

The methodology and implementation strategy of this programme is based on “principles and tools” to be presented as hard-core industry knowledge that was never seen nor considered before in similar development programmes.

Outstanding success drivers of the programme were found in the following features:

  1. One of the most important efficiency drivers was found in the mental wellness programme as entry point of intervention. It was found to change the participants’ perspective on their real basic needs and realities.
  2. A Mentorship Approach based on the current realities of rural farmers in the micro- and macro economy of the specific industry.
  3. Hard core industry driven technical knowledge presented in professional manuals that forms a set of guidelines to be kept by participants as reference.
  4. A management and financial recordkeeping focus which confirmed the lack of technical and financial record keeping skills in the Agripreneurial field of production.
  5. Collection of comprehensive research data that will, on completion of the project, give new guidance and focus to the AgriSETA regarding the implementation of the National Skills Strategy.

The vision of the partnership between Agri Enterprises and i3A was aiming to implement a mentorship program curated specifically for non-commercial farmers to advance into successful Agripreneurs through business planning, financial management and leadership development.

Another primary focus included was to encourage industry knowledge, advocating for change and educating farm business owners in legal farm business entities. It is important to be involved in community uplifting projects, as well as facilitating the training of the farm labour force and creating governance teams in their respective farming communities.

Students and farmers were accepted into the programme and began training in cycles of 20 students per session. One of the students attending the programme said that it is “A great program! I would recommend it to other farmers as it gives us knowledge.”

Students after receiving their certificates at Zandukwane, Eastern Cape.

The induction of the mentorship started with an introduction of the Garcias for Africa programme, whose main goal is to assist students and farmers to strive for personal, mental and leadership efficiency in their farming journey, whilst understanding the current realities of the individuals’ mind as a human being as part of a community.

The mentorship and training programme also included theoretical and practical knowledge sharing on beef cattle production, wool and sheep production, boer goat and angora goat production. The practical portion of the training addressed animal production and management systems, handling practices, agricultural law, nutrition and feeding, wool and mohair classification, animal health and biosecurity, as well as the responsible meat, wool and mohair standards.

Participants were involved in the practical engagements and demonstrations and received their SAQA accredited Animal Production certificates upon completion of the program.

BKB, Santam, MSD Animal Health, NutriFeeds, Boergoat Genetics and the Mohair Empowerment Trust are some of the partners who were involved in the training of the students and have partnered with i3A in realizing the success of the program.

Angora goat and mohair practicals at Middleburg, Eastern Cape.

The mentorship was also offered to some reserve force members under the Koba Tlala foundation of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The objective was also to assist these farmers to obtain the necessary skills to emerge to agripreneurs and not to be solely dependent on the SANDF’s income as call up duties are not guaranteed on an annual basis.

Koba Tlala SANDF Reserve Force Members after completing their skills course in Beef Production, Potchefstroom, Northwest.

The final goal is to have mentored, trained and equipped 720 farmers when the project ends on 30 March 2022. To date, 704 farmers have been trained in the Eastern Cape, Northwest, Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape and Western Cape Provinces.

As part of the of the follow-up outcomes of the mentorship, the hope is to engage Local Municipalities, the National and Provincial Government Departments to help in developing the mentees as real commercial agricultural leaders in the livestock sector.

Facilitators, farmers, mentors, Agri Enterprises and i3A have been on a good journey to learning and discovering efficient ways to training, farming, exploring agri business as well as networking. The skills gap and the new wave of agricultural training that has been evident in this Mentorship programme, is now more than ever, considered as a crucial need to develop agriculture as an efficient economic driver.

Farmers and prospective farmers, young and old, need to be mentored and assisted into successful production in a variety of agricultural enterprises.

This is exactly wat this partnership agreement between Agri Enterprises and i3A is doing!