Mentoring scheme helps small-scale farmers go commercial

Incubator makes Mhlonitshwa a respectable man

Members of Ukhanyo Farmer Development incubator at one of the farms they have assisted in growing.
Members of Ukhanyo Farmer Development incubator at one of the farms they have assisted in growing.

A partnership between small-scale farmers and farmer incubator Ukhanyo Farmer Development, has helped Mveleli Mhlonitshwa, 38, turn his 30-hectare small-holder farming project into a commercial farm.

Mhlonitshwa sells maize to feedlots, animal feed producing companies and his local community.

Mhlonitshwa’s farm is situated in the Upper Tabase village in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. He says that Ukhanyo Farmer Development has helped improve the productivity of his farming activities by supporting him with production inputs as well as mentorship.

The incubator supported Mhlonitshwa with seeds, fertilizers and machinery to grow his farm.

Mhlonitshwa, who started as a small-scale farmer in 2011, is now harvesting about 8.6 tons per hectare of maize. “When I started farming, I was harvesting about four tons per hectare,” he says.

The Ukhanyo Farmer Development incubator is a 36-member strong business that helps subsistence and small-scale farmers grow into commercial farmers. The incubator is made up of 32 women; more than 30 young people and operates in the Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo, Joe Gqabi, Chris Hani and Amathole district municipalities of the Eastern Cape.

Chairperson of Ukhanyo Farmer Development, Sinelizwi Fakade, says mentorship is done by members of the incubator who all hold a higher education qualification that is agriculture-related. The mentors work with the farmers on a daily basis. They share technical knowledge on farming and guide the farmers on how to produce the best harvest.

The incubator has managed to turn ordinary small-scale farmers into successful commercial farmers.

“Out of the 170 farmers we worked with in the previous farming season, we managed to grow 15 farmers from subsistence and small-scale farming to commercial farming. In the previous season, the farmers planted on 300 hectares of land and on average harvested 4.8 tons of maize per hectare,” Fakade says.

Ukhanyo Farmer Development is currently working with 600 farmers.

Fakade adds that their incubator is also working in partnership with the Eastern Cape’s department of rural development and agrarian reform as well  as private sector partners, to provide the farmers with support.

• This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele.

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