Practical Agricultural Services for Africa (PASA): smart farming

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New from ZOUTNET

Students pass course in vegetable farming

Members of Practical Agricultural Services for Africa (PASA) and eight existing small-scale farmers from the Vuwani area graduated last week from an intensive five-week course in vegetable farming and farm-business management.

The course ran over three months and was presented by Buhle Farmers Academy from Delmas. Buhle is registered with the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) as well as with AgriSETA.

PASA is a group of 10 young, local entrepreneurs, determined to raise the income of their families and communities through small-scale farming and related agricultural services.

According to the project manager, Mr Braam Cronjé, Vhembe needs young entrepreneurs to not only survive "but to thrive, so that they can boost our region’s economy for the better for everyone."

The 18 students now each have 39 SAQA credits. Four of the group also attended an additional tractor and tractor-maintenance course in Delmas during this time and received additional certificates.

The vegetable-farming course includes theory and practical lessons such as business plans, costing, the viability of agri-business and the dynamics in an agricultural marketing environment. On the practical side, they learned about plant propagation, diseases, weed control and the maintenance of irrigation systems, soil fertility and plant nutrition in vegetable farming.

“Twelve of the 18 are younger than 35, which is a good sign for agriculture in Vhembe. We cannot overstress how important it is for Limpopo’s economy, food security and socio-political stability that young people create their own jobs in their own home towns and regions,” says Mr Elias Matumba, vice-principal of Tshipakoni Agricultural School.

PASA works in close co-operation with the Tshiphakoni Agricultural School and local community and government structures, says spokesperson Robert Tshikwama. “We all grew up here and live in the surrounding villages of Nesengani and Vuwani. For the past 18 months, we and the learners of the school and interested members from the surrounding communities got hands-on lessons in all the aspects of the business of farming.”

Cronjé says there are lots of possibilities for agro-processing. “The whole supply chain of fresh vegetables and fruit has much to offer to all kinds of entrepreneurs. The Levubu Valley is one of the most fertile regions of Limpopo. If there is the will to do so in society and if good business and agricultural practises are applied, it can yield a lot of food-related businesses and income for the people of Limpopo,” he says.

“We are looking for people who are serious about business and farming because we are continuously trying to connect them with tribal councils and appropriate government structures to acquire land and agricultural support structures to farm. There is a lot of good agricultural land next to the Levubu river that has not been farmed for the past 10 years. Even one hectare can go a long way to help the young people of Vhembe to get off the ground and prosper,” says Cronjé.