How smallholders in South Africa are rising up the certification ranks with help from localg.a.p. and the SPAR Rural Hub.

Leydah Sekgobela is a diligent and passionate small-scale farmer from Limpopo, South Africa. She learned to care for her crops from her hard-working mother. Until recently, however, she had been struggling to take her business to the next level.

For smallholders in emerging markets, this is a common problem. It is difficult for them to reach the levels of food safety required by retailers in global markets, since meeting those requirements entails formidable amounts of time and money – resources these farmers simply don’t have. 

GLOBALG.A.P. is helping to tackle this problem through the localg.a.p. program. localg.a.p. offers a gateway to certification via entry-level assessments. Producers can climb the levels and progress towards better agricultural practices on their farm at a pace that suits them. Eventually, they can work their way up to full GLOBALG.A.P. certification.

In South Africa, localg.a.p. worked with the SPAR Rural Hub initiative to develop a SPAR-customized localg.a.p. program consisting of 3 levels: entry level, foundation level, and intermediate level.
Leydah started her food safety journey in 2017, when she passed her first localg.a.p. assessment. Over the years she has received mentoring, specialized training,  and market access, all of which finally helped her take her businesses to the next level.

In November 2020, she successfully completed her first GLOBALG.A.P. inspection, and she now employs 16 people on her farm. For Leydah Sekgobela, localg.a.p. was clearly an instrumental step in her journey: “localg.a.p. really helped me a lot as it gave me the opportunity to access formal markets in South Africa,” she says. “It is a standard suitable at a smallholder level and can open doors for many more small-scale producers.”

A step-by-step journey to success

SPAR started the journey with small-scale farmers in 2016, when the Mopani Rural Hub was established in Ofcolaco, Limpopo. The decision to develop and invest in rural hubs is based on the belief that small-scale rural farmers are the key to new and sustainable supply chains in South Africa. 

Once the SPAR localg.a.p. program had been developed, Rural Hub farmers began participating in the program atentry level in 2017. The farmers were then assessed annually, and in 2019 they passed the intermediate level localg.a.p. assessment. In 2020, three of the Mopani Rural Hub farmers achieved GLOBALG.A.P. certification.

Tumi Moropane is one of the SPAR Rural Hub Agricultural Advisors who was instrumental in implementing localg.a.p. at the Mopani Rural Hub: “I am very happy that we passed our audits. Through the support of my company, SPAR Mopani Rural Hub, our farmers made it! The company assisted the farmers with everything that they needed, and they also took me to GLOBALG.A.P. training in preparation for the inspections. That made the journey of our inspections really simple,” says Tumie. “The farmers were excited, and they were fully co-operating at all times. Since completing the certification process, they stand a much better chance of selling their products anywhere they want. And consumers will also feel confident when buying from our farmers, knowing that their food is safe.”

Through the localg.a.p. capacity building program in South Africa, several small-scale farmers have now achieved GLOBALG.A.P. certification – a feat which would have seemed out of reach just a few years ago.

When it comes to market access, these farms have now entered the global playing field.

What’s next? 

The biggest challenge for the program so far have been the 4 years of drought in Ofcolaco, which have limited the number of participating farmers. With the higher rainfall the southern hemisphere has seen so far this summer, it is hoped that the drought has finally broken, and that the number of participating farmers will increase substantially with the improved availability of water.

For 2021, a second rural hub is also planned at KwaZulu-Natal, where the range of crops will likely differ from those at the Mopani hub.

Wherever it goes from here, the localg.a.p. and SPAR Rural Hub collaboration can be considered a success.

Interested in localg.a.p.? Watch the localg.a.p. video to find out more!

Many thanks to James Lonsdale, Group Sustainability Manager at the SPAR GROUP LTD SOUTH AFRICA, for his cooperation on this article.