Empowering emerging farmers in SA

3 min read 14 February 2019

In 2018, Nceba Jakavula – age 47 – got six chickens from his grandmother Mpafi and decided to be a chicken farmer. “I saw a need to sell free-range, organic eggs, with a ‘nest-to-mouth’ approach. That’s what differentiates me from my competitors.” Jakavula says the journey has been a challenging one, with his lack of experience making it a high-risk endeavour.

However, he believes there are big opportunities for young people in the agriculture sector. “In five to ten years’ time, I’d like to see my farm have a turnover of R5-million a year. I think farmers play a big role in our economy and could stand up together to fight poverty.” To help emerging farmers achieve their dreams, Jakavula says public-private partnerships should help provide education and support.

One company that is deeply committed to uplifting emerging farmers is Santam. South Africa’s largest short-term insurer focusses on providing consumer financial education (CFE) to help farmers manage the financial aspects of their business successfully. Tersia Mdunge, CSI Manager at Santam, says the group aims to ensure farmers are equipped to grow flourishing business and take care of their own personal finances successfully. “This is a critical part of the development and upliftment of the agricultural sector in South Africa on many levels from food security to overcoming poverty.”  

It is imperative to equip emerging farmers to handle the primary challenges they face through the effective transfer of skills. The agriculture sector was the strongest driver of South Africa’s GDP growth in 2017, it is vital that corporate companies invest in it. Part of this means assisting emerging farmers with risk mitigation – especially risk pertaining to climate change and the increase in catastrophes.


Gerhard Diedericks, Head of Agriculture Unit at Santam says that a recent report that is yet to be published by the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) indicates close to 42% of farmers’ losses result from droughts, while 57% are the result of storms (29%) and floods (28%). About 20% of smallholder farmer risk is attributed to floods, fires and natural disasters.  These figures clearly demonstrate the need for strong skills training to deal with pests, diseases and damage resulting from erratic weather.

While disaster management is one part of this, another strong component is the transfer of business skills and financial education. In 2018, Santam’s CFE reached 575 black farmers in three different provinces, with the aim of assisting these individuals to successfully switch from subsistence to commercial farming. Santam contracted two service providers to offer consumer education to the targeted group of farmers: Farm for Africa in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, and Buhle Farmers’ Academy in Gauteng. Jakavula was one of the young farmers who benefitted from the CFE programme in 2018.

In addition to skills development, crop insurance is also critical to mitigate weather-related risks. The subsidisation of small-scale farmers by governments, NGOs and other aggregators, makes crop insurance affordable and accessible to previously uninsured farmers.

Diedericks says, “As a member of SAIA, Santam’s Agricultural Unit participated in the creation of a public-private partnership to provide crop insurance solutions to emerging farmers. Our specialists support and work very closely with underwriting and claims teams in emerging markets. They jointly underwrite, monitor and conduct loss assessments. They also conduct training and capacity building programmes. This collaboration and practical knowledge exchange is intended to ensure that a pool of local experts is retained in these markets.”

In total, over the last four years, Santam has assisted 3 428 farmers. However, Mdunge says there’s far more to be done, “We want to help emerging farmers to develop the skills and confidence to become more aware of financial risks and opportunities, make informed choices, know where to go for help, and to take other effective actions to improve their financial well-being. This includes understanding the role of agricultural insurance in risk mitigation and assisting black farmers with access to production credit and multi-risk insurance. We believe South Africa needs more of this kind of initiative.

Today, Jakavula has 145 chickens (65 females, 10 males and 70 chicks) and dreams of expanding his egg farm dramatically in the next five years. With the right skills, ongoing support, access to multi-risk insurance and production credit, he has all the potential to make it happen. Jakavula recently added pigs to his farming business, starting with five pigs and planning to expand when time allows.

Sidebar: The Success of Santam’s Emerging Farmers Programme:

Tersia Mdunge, CSI Manager at Santam says public-private partnerships like Santam’s partnership with Buhle Farmers Academy are essential to upskill emerging farmers. The success of these kinds of programmes can be judged by:

  1. The sustainable production of profitable crops on every hectare
  2. Increased financial returns for farmers, plus reduced production costs
  3. Improved tillage practices
  4. Better commercial marketing of crops
  5. Improved knowledge of production practices, land use, resource utilisation, mechanisation and modern technology
  6. Improved business acumen
  7. The sustained transformation of the agriculture sector