Harry Gwala Agri was launched in March 2017 and is a non-profit company aimed at the upliftment and facilitation of development among emerging farmers in the Harry Gwala district of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The initiative is founded on the belief that commercial farmers in the district can no longer live as islands of prosperity amidst a sea of poverty.
With this in mind, Harry Gwala Agri looks to engage with and put in motion a broad suite of projects including those pertaining to the bolstering of household food security; creating opportunities for farmers in a position to derive an income from surplus being produced; to beneficiaries of the land reform process who need assistance in running either the agricultural or business side of their enterprises and facilitation of communication between themselves, their mentor and/or government.
The company is chaired by Mr. Rory Bryden, and vice-chaired by Mr. Robert Stapylton-Smith, both successful dairy farmers in the district. The board consists of seven other directors (table 1), all of whom bring a unique set of skills and expertise and whose involvement is governed by a shared belief in the organization’s mandate and guiding principles. Together they offer, without remuneration, invaluable direction and support to the company’s management comprising project manager, Mr. Dylan Weyer and secretary, Mrs. Sarah Firth.
A broad spectrum of projects exists and ranges from those at the subsistence level, to beneficiaries of the land reform process who have aspirations of having commercial enterprises, to agricultural co-operatives. In all cases, mentorship relationships are an important conduit for the transfer of skills between established and aspiring commercial farmers and are crucial for ensuring that the purpose of any investment in a project, be it time or financial, is fully realised.
- The initiative must come from the farmer or the community themselves which indicates the level of drive and passion required to be successful in agriculture.
- Financial investment in a project is designed to offer a ‘leg up’ but should not raise expectations of on-going support of this nature in order to avoid engendering a ‘handout’ mentality.
- The objective is skills development through mentorship partnerships with the ultimate goal being the self-sufficiency of the aspiring farmer or community involved.
- Project progress is monitored and evaluated through structured report writing and feedback meetings between the facilitator (HGA), the mentor and the aspiring farmer.
The Co-op Community Trust proudly partners with Harry Gwala Agri, impacting the community by investing in agricultural development of the Harry Gwala district.
Harry Gwala Agri is an example of success, based on relationships formed between commercial farmers, subsistence farmers and farm development.