John Deere empowers small contractors to excel
John Deere has developed a system of supporting small scale farmers and contractors in Sub Sahara Africa through its training partner, Batho Pele. Du Preez de Villiers from ProAgri describes how it works using a case study of two contrators in South Africa, but it all started in Zambia.
ubsistence farming in Sub-Sahara Africa is a reality with the majority of people trying to eke out an existence on small pieces of land. Although this type of farming will probably not lead to individual riches or huge commercial farming enterprises, it remains an important factor in food security and in preventing or at least slowing down the process of urbanisation. John Deere realised that keeping subsistence farmers on their land and helping them to farm as effectively as possible through better farming practices and mechanisation, could lead to food security, sustainability and job creation in rural areas. In the same breath John Deere can expand and ensure its footprint in Africa by promoting agriculture. Therefore it was decided to develop a
system suited for Africa’s subsistence farmers and contractors. In 2011 John Deere launched a small pilot project in conjunction with Afgri Zambia. With the help of the Zambia Conservation Farmers Union, eighteen farmers were identified to take part in an empowerment project. The farmers each had to contribute some money initially in order to receive a complete farming package, including tractors and implements, which they then had to pay off in monthly instalments over a period of three years. They also had to undergo a training programme for small farmers and contractors presented by Batho Pele, a training organisation commissioned by John Deere. All 18 of them then started delivering contractor services to their communities.
After the training, they improved their returns on their own farms by 91%. Only two of the farmers experienced some problems initially, but for the rest all the equipment was paid off within 36 months. Those two now are also contractors and farm commercially. They invested in larger implements and some decided to farm full-time, while others continue with contract work in their communities. “One very important observation we made, was that they were not looking for hand-outs. They asked us to help them so that they could help themselves,” says Carel Theron, Marketing Manager of John Deere SA. A true farmer can prove himself, and John Deere learnt enough from this project to apply this principle in South Africa. “It is difficult and risky to empower new farmers, but I have learned to discern between a real farmer and a chancer within two minutes,” says Modupi Mokoena, John Deere Regional Manager for Emerging Farmers. Zandasile Dandala and Unathi Mgugudo are two tillage and planting contractors from Mount Ayliff, 40 km from Kokstad in the Eastern Cape re-
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