A game-changer for agriculture

On the wide plains of the highlands of Mpumalanga lies the most beautiful farm, MOOIKRANS, where unique Agricultural training takes place. Students from all over the country and from Namibia and Botswana, enrol at Mooikrans to qualify them for their future in agriculture or equestrian sciences.

As part of the social support to students, the curriculum provides additional support such as literacy testing and feedback, mental wellbeing, individual emotional support and character development, within Christian principles. This model provides for a maximum of 30 students per year, which ensures intensive training and personal attention to each student. As part of the full-fledged development of young farmers, each student also earns additional certificates in first aid, survival and equestrian mastery.

Mooikrans agricultural industry-driven curriculum:

Considering the expectations of students and parents, the model offers a completely holistic and accredited agricultural curriculum developed by i3A (International Agricultural Academy for Africa) and presented on the Agri-pedia interactive E-learning platform – https://i3a.co.za/oplossings-vir-landbou-opleiding/ 

Qualified lecturers from the industry offer traditional lectures and practicals to students, while the surrounding commercial farmers in the district pass on their successful production and management knowledge to the students.  Part of i3A’s adopted strategy to help students to realise their potential in becoming successful farmers is through the Garcias for Africa Project – https://i3a.co.za/your-mental-wellbeing/

It is here at Mooikrans, with its historic buildings and infrastructure, surrounded by giant Eucalyptus trees and lush green lawns with ample infrastructure and space for a variety of agricultural activities, where Hans Heinze and Theda Shawe, spent 3 days with 23 students studying Agriculture, personally teaching and guiding them through the Garcias for Africa Programme, which forms part of their induction at i3A.

The students had a lot of fun being very interactive throughout. There were roleplay sessions, physical metaphor demonstrations, and at the end of day three, these 23 students amazed the facilitators and management with the insightful knowledge that they have gained through the Garcias for Africa Programme, by presenting self-prepared lectures in groups.

“I have noticed a big difference in the attitudes of the students who completed the Garcias for Africa training, versus those who have not”, said Elna Wahl, founder and owner of Mooikrans, after the completion on day 3 of the Garcias for Africa Programme.

It is clear from all the feedback that was received from Elna Wahl and her students, that the Garcias for Africa programme made a definite positive impact on the day-to-day lives of the students and management on the Mooikrans farm and their future lives, proving the International Agricultural Academy for Africa’s one of a kind approach to be effective, innovative and life-changing!

Here is some feedback from the students themselves:

“The programme has completely changed the way I look at the world and I feel the more people can be exposed to this wonderful message, the better we as students, as a nation and the world can work together”. – Luan du Plooy
“I wish I had known earlier in my life what I know now after this program – it would have made so many things and problems I experienced easier for me, and it would have been so valuable had I known how to solve those problems and I would have handled it so differently. I’m going to take what I have discovered as a result of this program with me for the rest of my life and tell others about it where possible”. – Stephan Viljoen
“The program gave me clarity about my thoughts and feelings. I was experiencing huge stress problems but today I understand where it all comes from and knowing that, will help me build up my ‘psychological immune system’”. – Johanni Erasmus

Bovine Academy for southern Africa

The International Agricultural Academy for Africa (i3A) is striving to be the leading source of impact-driven agricultural training solutions on the African continent.

As part of the i3A initiative to promote our slogan, “Agriculture goes way beyond agriculture”, we certainly know that taking up this challenge is not a single academic exercise to be unfolded over a short period. We see this as a collaborative task between i3A as an academic institution and several commercial role-players within the heart and business of the agricultural industry. This partnership can also not only include a single commercial partner who is engaged in the full value chain of a specific agricultural enterprise but also requires several industry role-players as partners from the agricultural suppliers’ side, such as input providers of animal health products, animal feed specialists, equipment manufacturers, technology suppliers and breeders of genetically improved breeds.

The Bovine Academy for southern Africa (Pty) Ltd, or BASA, is a specialist affiliated academy of the International Agricultural Academy for Africa that was established to provide SAQA accredited qualifications and industry customised training curriculums to meet the employment needs of students, farmers, farmworkers and agripreneurs in the cattle industry.

BASA as an affiliated academy of i3A was established in 2020 to provide specialised beef cattle production training as fully accredited learnerships to the Sernick Groups’ Emerging Farmer Programme. This project was part of a Jobs Fund and National Treasury project, whereby 660 prospective cattle farmers were recruited and trained through a collaboration agreement between i3A’s Bovine Academy and the Sernick Group. 300 Farmers from this group were selected and further equipped with technical skills to enable them to develop their herds to a commercial level. Another 50 farmers from these 300 farmers, were upskilled into viable commercial entities with their own sustainable production capacity.







As part of the second phase of collaboration, The Sernick Development Company, SerDev, in April 2022 welcomed ABSA Bank on board to capacitate and add an additional 100 farmers as beneficiaries to this development programme.

The vision of the Bovine Academy for southern Africa is economic prosperity and food security for all. The BASA training programmes are a step in that direction!

To enquire about, or to apply for a specialised qualification in the Beef Production Value chain, visit www.basa.africa.

Read more about this exciting project at https://www.proagri.co.za/en/sernick-group-announces-collaboration-with-absa/


The effect of the recent heavy rainfall on soil and farmers

“Without agriculture, man cannot live and without water, man cannot have agriculture” (Ramachandran, 2010).”

Crop production in agriculture uses about 1.5 billion hectares (ha) (11%) of the earth’s 13,2 billion hectares (ha). Irrigating land for crop growth and high yields uses approximately 70% of fresh water on the planet. However, many regions in Southern Africa have a limited supply of freshwater and often rely on rain to increase soil moisture and promote high yields.This type of farming is referred to as dryland agriculture, which is suitable for crops such as groundnuts, cotton and sorghum, grown. Recently, both irrigated and non-irrigated agricultural practices have been influenced by the heavy amount of rainfall, which is South Africa’s heaviest on record according to an article by Claudine Senekal from Bloomberg news. Southern Africa’s 2021/2022 summer season will see an end at the end of March this year, and so far talks of the effects of this season’s rainfall were both exciting and boarded on the state of national disaster, stemming from the floods that occurred across the country.

© Stephan Krüger

Almost all summer, rainfall regions have experienced prolonged rain since October 2021, and a Business Insider report from early October predicted a rainy summer through February 2022 for most of South Africa. In part, this was due to a weak La Nina, part of a broader El Nino–Southern Oscillation climate pattern influencing seasonal weather patterns. As a result of this forecast, South Africa experienced above-normal rains and thundershowers this summer.

© Stephan Krüger

Meanwhile, up to the middle of January 2022, there was very little rain reported in South Africa’s neighbouring country Namibia. Most of Namibia was spared a lot of the tropical moisture that was redirected over to Botswana, then towards South Africa. As a consequence of this redirection, floods occurred randomly in areas across South Africa.

Data from the South African Weather Service shows that rain fell across much of North West province and the western Free State. The province of Limpopo received nearly four times as much rain in December as it normally does, as one district received 390 millimetres (15.4″) of rain compared with its 30-year average, while other districts saw more than double their normal rainfall. East London also endured heavy rainfall, as well as Augrabies in the Northern Cape, and some flooding also occurred in several parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

Picture: SA Weather Services predictions for the average rainfall of early January 2022. (Weather SA Media release; 28 January 2022)

Farmers were mostly glad for the rain as in the past few years, there were concerns that a lack of rain would endanger water supplies across the country, including the Vaal Dam, which supplies water to Johannesburg. Farmers and policymakers have been affected by extreme weather and unpredictable weather. Flooding and crop damage have occurred in some of South Africa’s most important agricultural provinces due to unprecedented rain, adding to concerns about climate change making weather unpredictable.

The high amount of rainfall not only damages crops due to the anaerobic conditions caused by waterlogging. Erosion of the topsoil occurs due to the flooding that occurs, and there’s also an increase in the number of pathogens and pest infestations on crop commodities that result in a decrease in crop yield. Despite the heavy rain, the drier regions of South Africa benefited due to improved germination and grasses emerging as well as improved pasture conditions.

© Stephan Krüger

Agricultural producers cannot plan for such extreme weather events, but management plans are applied which in some cases reduce the severity of the damages caused and inconveniences encountered on the whole farming value chain. But from what we have experienced this past summer, we can at least conclude that small adjustments to everyday farming practices are being made to adapt to climate change, including managing irrigation timings, planting cover crops to prevent topsoil erosion, and creating drainage channels to redirect water flow.

The Great High of Cannabis

Thought piece: Thabo Olivier

It was a landmark court decision on the 2nd of September 2018, that launched an epic high across South Africa when our highest court decriminalized cannabis (dagga) for use and private cultivation. I remember getting over twenty calls from friends and strangers that day, everyone wanting to cash in on this opportunity. Now at the time I was only hoping to continue to be a food security activist, with my focus area being promoting resilient, and sustainable household food gardens using waste material. But I couldn’t help to think of prospects of venturing into the industry of cannabis growing. However, I noticed very early on that the cannabis industry may be huge and have tremendous potential, but it is not a legal cash crop.

The regulations around cannabis production are exceptionally regulated and have all the hallmarks of an industry earmarked for the “big players” in my opinion.  During this year’s State of the Nation Address, president Cyril Ramaphosa’s declarations that the growth of the plant will be accelerated to turn it into an economy-boosting sector highlighted some progress from the decriminalization from the years before, however, in order to tighten regulatory kinks and push the sector forward, further engagement is needed. This made me think of the average joe in the farming value chain. Since cannabis is not considered a legal cash crop, and it is illegal to sell it, or to have it in your possession outside of your place of residence, how will one start to confidently start trading legally?

In 2019 I attempted to grow a plant or two and succeeded. My attempt was applauded by recreational users of the herb, and I was informed of the exceptional quality of this sativa strain and the beautiful “crystals” on the massive “heads”, visible to the naked eye.

Hence my dilemma. Here I have a product that is apparently very good and by all accounts very valuable, but it cannot be sold. As a non-using enthusiast of the product and unable to profit from it, the question I constantly ask myself is, where is the opportunity? The sad truth is that that the opportunity can only be realized through illicit and criminal means, unless the laws governing private marijuana production and distribution are clear, concise and help grow the local agriculturists, or the laws are completely relaxed.It is a great initiative by the government to boost confidence where cannabis production and legal regulation is concerned, but the reality is that for now, the only “legal” buyers and distributors are the pharmaceutical companies. As a regular joe, or a garden to small scale farmer, my assumption is that you would need to have a few million to spend on a permit to grow the clinical/medical cannabis, and a few million more to set up the prerequisite production plant. Otherwise, we all have to be content in growing 4 plants at home, or a maximum of 8 if there are two adults who both reside at the same address as their “domicilium citandi et executandi”.

As for myself, I still grow veggies out of buckets and bottles and hope to see more being done to continue to boost the economic cycle of cannabis in South Africa. The opportunity is there, but I believe to best keep the cannabis economy high, we need to have all stakeholders having a piece of the pie.