Leading insurer gives emerging farmers a much-needed boost

08 March 2016 Gerhard Diedericks, Santam
Gerhard Diedericks, head of Santam Agriculture.

Gerhard Diedericks, head of Santam Agriculture.

•	WilliamMmakola: William Mmakola of Tsimanyane Village, Limpopo completed the training provided by Santam.

• WilliamMmakola: William Mmakola of Tsimanyane Village, Limpopo completed the training provided by Santam.

•	Successful course graduates of the Santam sponsored Consumer Financial Education Training held at Jan Kempdorp, Northern Cape receive their course completion certificates  (18 November 2015).

• Successful course graduates of the Santam sponsored Consumer Financial Education Training held at Jan Kempdorp, Northern Cape receive their course completion certificates (18 November 2015).

More than 600 emerging farmers from villages and rural towns across the country were recently empowered to start their process to successfully convert their subsistence farming into commercial farming through a series of consumer education training programmes. The training, driven by leading South African short-term insurer Santam, imparted the necessary financial and business skills to the farmers.

“The training has really assisted me in managing my small farming enterprise,” says William Mmakola, an emerging farmer from the Tsimanyane Village in Limpopo. “The practical lessons I learnt is now helping me to set and manage my business plans. I have already drawn up a worksheet to manage the turnover earned from the cultivation of fresh produce,” he says.

Klass Ridane from Rusterwinter in Mpumalanga, shares Mmakola’s sentiment and says the training taught him useful information that is helping him manage the financial duties in his small farming operation. “The training has given me a lot of practical tips and ideas on how to run the business better and to motivate our workers as we start planting our winter crops.”

“I wish the rest of our community had the opportunity to attend the training as I learnt so much,” says Mapule Emily Moggi from Brilliant Farming Corporation in Gauteng. “It is something many people can benefit from and it will help us to be better farmers.”

Gerhard Diedericks, head of Santam Agriculture, explains it is not an easy time to be a farmer in South Africa. “Besides changing weather patterns, the crippling drought, labour costs and unrest, crop disease, declining competitiveness in global markets and limited resources are all putting strain on South Africa’s shrinking agricultural sector. Those hardest hit are our country’s emerging farmers, many of whom are struggling to cope with financial pressure, a lack of skills and inadequate support to weather the storms facing the industry.”

He continues that the insurer recognises agriculture is key to the future health of the South African economy, and thus embarked on this training campaign, the first of its kind in the industry. “Santam is committed to assisting emerging farmers, as they are vital to the long-term sustainability of the agriculture sector. While significant challenges face all farmers, small and emerging farmers require even more support and may not always have the necessary skills and support to bounce back when fate steps in.

“As a player in this market, we felt the need to get involved beyond our current programmes. Santam has for more than 85 years supported farmers and has a deep understanding of the challenges and risks they face. We are therefore ideally placed to offer assistance, sharing our knowledge and expertise in building risk resilience,” says Diedericks.

From November 2015 to January 2016, the farmers – from KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, the North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Free State – were given face-to-face financial skills training, information on risk management, and on-going mentorship and support. The farmers were sourced through Santam’s relationship with agricultural bodies such as the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA), the National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (NERPO) and existing Santam clients.

Partnerships were formed with three service providers – Avocado Vision, AgriSkills Transfer and Farm for Africa – to deliver the training in sessions of one day, five days and two weeks. The focus was on financial education, the insurance industry and the most important risks facing farmers, and access to finance and budgeting.

Jules Newton, managing director of Avocado Vision says the reality is that small scale farmers can easily get lost in the system. “Most emerging farmers often live from hand to mouth and don’t have the resources to be able to invest in themselves. These farmers may have great technical farming skills, but the financial skills are tougher to acquire. Santam’s support of these programmes really helps farmers come to grips with their financial issues and enables them to make better decisions about how to manage their money. In such tough economic times, these are vital survival skills.”

Santam’s emerging farmer training programme forms part of a broader consumer education strategy initiated by the insurer aimed at community upliftment and promoting access to financial services. It is done in support of Government’s drive to combat the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality but also understanding that emerging markets have specific needs.

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