GrainSA/Syngenta Smallholder of the Year 2014
Smallholder farmers shaping the future of agriculture
The 2014, Grain SA/Syngenta Smallholder of the Year event was held in Bloemfontein on 2 October 2014 where 36 year old Lungelwa Kama was announced as the 2014 winner of GrainSA/Syngenta Smallholder Farmer of the Year Award.
Lungelwa is an accomplished farmer who contributed 754 tonnes of maize to the national food bourse ensuring food security for millions of households in South Africa and far-away countries. Her husband Vuyani (41) is her pillar of strength. The event was sponsored by Syngenta, a world-leading agri-business committed to sustainable agriculture through innovative research and technology.
At first encounter Lungelwa Kama from Maclear situated in the foothills of the Drakensberg, in the Eastern Cape, strikes you as the typical thirty something year old lady – well groomed, fashion conscious and a ball of boundless energy and love for life. Get closer to her and you will find a game changer who is making waves and breaking the costly stereotype that farming is only for the old, backward and unsexy.
“I want to become a fully-fledged commercial farmer producing in excess of 1500 hactres of grain towards food security in the country. I would like to thank Syngenta and Grain SA for your demonstrating unwavering support for us smallholder farmers,” she said.
The coveted prize comprising a certificate and cash was presented to her peers in the male dominated sector, during the ‘Grain SA Day of Celebration’ held in October in Bloemfontein. Syngenta Corporate Affairs Manager Africa and the Middle East Mphilo Dlamini, said smallholder farmers hold the key to poverty reduction.
“We are excited to partner with Grain SA in promoting this newly-created category of Smallholder Farmer of the Year. We share the same common goal and purpose with Grain SA on the importance of developing and supporting smallholder farmers.” Also present among the 500 strong audience were key figures from Grain SA such as, Victor Mongoato, (vice chairman), Jannie de Villiers (CEO) and Jane McPherson (Farmer Development Programme manager).
“Smallholder farmers are catalysts of rural economic development and key employers in these communities. In fact, Africa’s smallholder farmers can be agriculture’s game changers of the 21st century because they have moved from rhetoric to action. They are not talkers but doers,” said Mphilo.
He emphasised that smallholder farmers can feed the world. “There are some 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide on whom more than 2 billion people depend for their livelihoods. These small farms produce about 80 percent of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Smallholder farmers can feed themselves, their communities and the world,” he said.
Mphilo cautioned though that whilst smallholder farmers are a solution, they cannot succeed on their own in ensuring that farming is carried out in a sustainable way.
Mphilo called for a paradigm shift in the way the world viewed farmers and farming in general. “People have this misconstrued idea that farming is only for the ‘not cool’, for down trodden sections of the society and that it was only an option for retirement. They say farming is not sexy. I say, this is completely untrue because farmers feed the world and in farming lies the secret of wealth creation, employment creation and poverty reduction.”
Jannie de Villiers, CEO Grain SA, congratulated the farmers for their role in society and encouraged them to always seek out new information regarding production costs, scope, inputs, market prices, trends and environments. He said as Grain SA they were not just harvesting food, but they were harvesting farmers. “Never take short cuts or fall prey to people who use under hand methods and promise you quick returns. That will surely prove costly in the long run,” he said.
Syngenta believes that the future of agriculture should be shaped rather than left to chance. Therefore, in partnership with the University of the Free State’s Business School, Syngenta has developed a tailored programme and successfully implemented it in 2013. The initiative is supported by Grain South Africa. “The establishment of a Grain Academy is in line with Grain South Africa’s strategic objectives and we’re excited to partner with Syngenta on delivering on this project. The future of sustainable production lies in our competitiveness and it can only be improved with ongoing training,” Jannie says.
Meanwhile, Jannie noted that without agriculture the world would be naked, hungry and thirsty. “Farmers enable nations to grow from the baby stage to adulthood and, you don’t have to be a big farmer to be a good farmer. We should all strive for optimal use of land,” she said. Equating farming to a journey in a taxi, she said farmers should work hand in hand with Grain SA and other service providers to ensure that they become, “involved and empowered passengers working towards a common destination of success in agriculture production and wealth creation. We want to ensure that farming is a transformed, united and prosperous sector.”