A group of elderly farmers from three Limpopo local municipalities are learning new practical farming skills, thanks to the Farmer Field School concept adopted by the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The programme targets the Greater Letaba, BaPhalaborwa and Maruleng local municipalities and aims to promote food security by teaching the elderly how to farm and use good food production practices.
The programme – running in the villages of Maphalle in Greater Letaba, Benfarm in Ba-Phalaborwa and Lorraine in Sekororo – enables more experienced farmers to teach members of their community how to grow the best food possible.
Ivy Moagi of the Lorraine Farmer Field School says they have been trained in crop and vegetable farming. “Through a combination of indigenous and scientific practices, we manage to produce food for our families,” she says.
Crops include potatoes and maize. What is left over after feeding the participants’ families is sold at local markets, says Moagi.
The farmers say they have figured out a system that enables them to overcome their differences and work together so they learn from one another.
Farmer Field School participants say the programme is not without its challenges. They explain that they battle to market their produce. “Although at this stage we are not producing large quantities of crops, we already have a challenge with our small surplus.”
The learners of the ‘school without walls’ say they are proud of the fact that they are responsible for producing their own food and source of income.
The Farmer Field School concept is supported by the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), which hopes to expand the programme nationally to help ensure a food-secure population. Extension officers from the department are now involved in farmer training.
People who want more information about the programme, can contact the national agriculture department by calling 012 319 6000, going to the website www.dalrrd.gov.za, or visiting their nearest DALRRD office.