South African Breweries supports agriculture mechanization dishes out funds

SOUTH AFRICA – Beverage maker South African Breweries (SAB) has provided R8-million (US$480,000) worth of mechanisation equipment to smallholder farmers in the North West under its FarmSol farmer development programme.

The smallholder farmer mechanisation sharing scheme is a collaborative effort between SAB and agricultural services company FarmSol, which provides mechanisation equipment that is shared between farmers who lend it out at affordable rates.

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This initiative is set to demonstrate meaningful social impact, transfer skills and knowledge and provide the farmers with access to modern and latest farming equipment and technologies to use towards successful cultivation of crops, SAB says.

The brewer has been working in partnership with FarmSol since 2016 providing non-interest-bearing loans to emerging farmers, enabling farmers to plant crops such as barley and non-genetically modified yellow maize, which is supplied to SAB, says SAB corporate affairs VP Zoleka Lisa.

Further, some of the funding will go towards buying and installing soil moisture probes, which are instruments that monitor soil moisture and soil temperature, providing an early warning system that empowers farmers with accurate, real-time data.

This helps farmers to prevent over- and under-irrigation, as well as preventing unnecessary energy use, saving costs for farmers.

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“Declining agricultural performance is a major driving force behind the growing number of struggling African smallholder farmers. The recovery of this industry offers the greatest prospects for rural populations to escape poverty.

“The high cost of agricultural machinery together with scarce funding opportunities make access to farming mechanisation equipped with latest technologies a far-fetched dream for many new entrant black farmers,” Lisa says.

The smallholder farmers are now empowered to further plant soya beans, sunflower, wheat, canola and oats as part of crop rotation.

For the barley crop of 2021 and the summer crop of 2022, the supported farmers received R30.5-million rands in profits payout, the seasonal average payout per farmer being R191 000 in a season.

The project will help smallholder farmers plant on time, save money and help them learn how to manage their own farming equipment, says Desmond Sibinda, one of the FarmSol farmer development programme beneficiaries.

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“Since the start of the mechanisation programme, our farm managed to plant on time and turn a profit. We are grateful for the support,” he says.

The partnership between FarmSol and SAB is a special collaborative initiative that will see more than 30 emerging farmers accept mechanisation that uses latest and modern precision farming capabilities.

FarmSol is reviewing how to best scale the mechanisation programme to achieve broader impact, says FarmSol MD Aron Kole.

“We are pleased with the success of the FarmSol programme and remain proud that working with partners such as SAB, and contributing to the success of smallholder farmers, boosting rural development and reducing poverty in rural areas by increasing household incomes,” says Kole.

Thus far, 41 farmers who are part of the FarmSol programme and who farm in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga benefitted from the programme, saving them close to R2-million and enabling them to plant on time. The project created 50 permanent and 224 temporary jobs, SAB says.

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