Business a priority – African Farming

Collaboration between established, mainly white, commercial farmers and black emerging commercial farmers is vital to successful agricultural transformation in South Africa. Established farmers have the knowledge and experience, the infrastructure and the networking channels to help those starting out in the field. This kind of support generates positive transformation. 

There is a wellspring of goodwill in the agricultural environment, believes Praveen Dwarika, managing director of Afgri’s Lemang Agricultural Services. “We see collaboration between white and black farmers; we see the goodwill. We just need to go out and capitalise on it as much as possible,” he says. 

While transformation is a national imperative that is critical to food security, it has to be aligned with business objectives. “The sector needs to change and we must transform and get more black participants in, but we must also keep the commercial goals in sight,” Dwarika says. 

Transformation partners Raymond Koopstad, a black commercial stone fruit farmer of La Vouere Estate in Ceres, and Peter Wolfaardt, a fourth-generation farmer of Verdun Estates based in Prince Alfred Hamlet, speak of the benefits of their collaborative relationship. “I think any South African company has a responsibility to right the wrongs of the past. It was important for us to get involved,” Wolfaardt says.

Koopstad explains that Wolfaardt has brought mentorship, financial and technical expertise and market linkages to his operation. He adds that new-era farmers can avoid “paying their school fees” by tapping into the knowledge and experience of their mentors and their specific commodity organisations. 

Healthy connections between people play a huge role in positive transformation. “We need open and bold engagements,” says Dwarika. “Support comes when farmers engage, when they have the conversations and challenge one another in a positive way.”

Experienced farmers can and do empower new-era farmers through mentorship, through the transfer of generational knowledge and expertise, by making loans available to help neighbours through sticky patches, and by sharing infrastructure. 

“I think we’re on a good track with a lot of positive stuff happening out there,” Dwarika concludes. “We just need to keep that momentum.” 

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