A new project designed to turn smallholder producers into sustainable farmers and connect them to high-value markets in South Africa is proving highly successful. The localg.a.p. project aims to bring smaller farmers into wider markets while simultaneously encouraging a more sustainable agriculture and horticulture sector in the country.
A failing farm infrastructure
Smallholder farmers in South Africa have been struggling financially for some time. Most have been muscled out of high-value markets such as supermarket chains for a number of reasons. There are also problems affect crop yield and security, from structural obstacles like the limited availability of arable land to gaps in knowledge such as limited technical innovation in farming. Moreover, their inability to farm on an environmentally friendly level has stopped large brands from working with these farmers.
Hope on the horizon for farmers
Addressing these issues has been no easy task, but the civil society organization Solidaridad has teamed up with the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) and the LIMA Rural Development Foundation to offer hope to these smallholder farmers. The initiative is known as the “Smallholder Access to High-Value Horticultural Markets” project and is funded by the European Union (EU) through the EU Delegation to South Africa.
The project was rolled out under the SWITCH Africa Green facility, elevating emerging smallholder farmers to gain access to high-value markets across South Africa, as well as helping them become localg.a.p. assessed producers. The assessments are used to help producers learn and adopt environmentally friendly agricultural practices that increase efficiency and fully comply with food safety legislation.
The new agriculture and horticulture program works by upskilling smallholder producers across Southern Africa and preparing them for commercialization. Not only will this improve local and regional market integration across the sector, but partnerships between high-value markets and smallholder farmers are strengthened too.
Tools for sustainable farming
The project was designed to support farmers by training them on reliable methods of sustainable production, as well as agricultural practices. These include accurate soil testing, residue level testing, and water testing to make sure that farmers are keenly aware of the risk of contamination to their produce.
TintswaloMakhubele participated in the project and found great success with the partnership. She said, “We have changed our outlook as entrepreneurs in farming; we have earned respect and are now supplying wholesalers with confidence.”
A self-assessment tool was developed to help farmers track their progress towards meeting the localg.a.p. criteria. This was coupled with internal assessments by team members on the project, who were able to prepare farmers for external testing by Control Union Certifications.
Of the 750 smallholder farmers involved in the project, 427 underwent an external assessment and received letters of conformance for localg.a.p. Moreover, the project managed to successfully connect smallholder farmers with retailers in the hope that they can boost profits for sustainable farmers.