Forum reports

Farmers' Forums

A farmers’ forum is a continuous, decentralized process in a form of events involving farmers, organisations and government departments focusing on rural livelihoods. This event consists of dialogues on agricultural production as well as other issues affecting farmers’ lives. It allows farmers to share ideas and knowledge on how to improve agricultural production and livelihoods. It further gives them an opportunity to learn new farming technologies and practices create opportunities for farmers and stakeholders to learn and interact from each other and from the stakeholders. Six forums are held every year in Okhahlamba Local Municipality. These forums are led by Community Task team members who decide where each forum will be and what the theme or topic of the day will be. This allows a more farmer led process where small holder farmers discuss their own issues and experiences.

Market Access: Reserve B

Market access for rural smallholder farmers is gradually being encouraged as a means towards improving sustainable rural development. The first forum of the year focused on market access and up scaling crop production. FSG met with various market role players such as hotels and supermarkets. Some showed interest in buying produce from the farmers and thus a forum was held to further discuss the issue. Each community group was given a platform to present where they are in terms of their level of production as well as hindrances that affect their ability to upscale their production. Facilitators presented what has been done to assist farmers such; buying three tunnel, a water pump, pipes, seedlings and so on. Farmers also presented what they had been doing and most groups responded well and showed that they had taken the initiative as some had bought their own seedlings and pipes (New Stand and Reserve B).

Climate change: Busingatha

Climate change is an important issue that must be addressed by all nations multi-laterally. It is certainly one of this century’s greatest destabilizing forces which undermines our global economy, threatens our health. Climate change topics include sustainable agriculture, energy security, climate-related conflict and climate negotiations and agreements. It was there important for FSG to hold a forum focusing on climate change as it affects agricultural production as well as the general environment. The objective of the forum was to make community members aware of what climate change is; the causes and how they can eliminate the impacts. Some community members seemed to understand what climate change is but others were not clear about the topic. The facilitator explained what it is and some factors that contribute to it. Each person was given a poster which had pictures so that they understand how they can reduce greenhouse gas emission. Also there was a discussion of how they can cope with climate change impacts and farmers understood and knew some of the coping mechanisms in agriculture. Some community members only got to know about climate change by listening to Ukhozi radio station and others said that they had never heard of it. Farmers were encouraged to reuse, recycle and reduce carbon emissions in order to combat the effect of global warming. Farmers were also encouraged to plant indigenous trees so that there capture carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The facilitator also highlighted that in addition to capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide, indigenous trees are better that exotic trees because there use less water.

Diagram showing strategies for combating climate change. Picture from Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs

No till: Potshini

The main objective of the forum was to enable farmers to discuss issues related to the use of no till. It was held in Potshini as community members they have received training and bought their own no till planters. To facilitate in-depth discussions FSG community facilitator gave a presentation on the use of no till as he has used it for about four 5 years. He explained that in order for no till to be effective in terms of yield, it is important that weeds are controlled either manually or using herbides. If herbicides are used, pre emergence and post emergence has to applied to ensure effective control. Also, it was explained that fertilizer has to be applied six weeks after crop emergence. When asked if they use no till, about five farmers said they use it and others said they have not used it as they received them after planting in 2013. They said that they will be using it in 2014 planting season. Farmers said that using no till does not only reduce ploughing cost but reduces soil erosion and conserves moisture. The outcome of the forum was that farmers will use the no till and FSG will have demonstrations to show how it works.

Demonstration on soil and run off due between no till and conventional tillage. Middle section- no till

Following the forum two FSG staff members attended a no till conference club in Bergville which gave more insight on the effects and importance of using no till. Also, the forum was attended by UKZN students who will be doing their research on no till and two farmers offered their land to host the students.

Seed awareness and seedling production: Nokopela

The Seed Awareness Forum took place on 21 October 2014 and was held at Nokopela Community Hall, Bergville. A guest speaker from Stark Ayres gave a presentation on seed sowing and germination. The main points that were covered on sowing were that farmers should sow in a staggered manner and not at once because the seed will germinate simultaneously resulting in some of it rotting. Before sowing farmers must ensure that they have done soil preparation (weeding, raised bed preparation, addition of kraal manure etc.). When buying seed, farmers should check that the expiration date has not passed and should not keep the seed at high temperatures. Ideally the seed must be kept at about 10oC because the shelf life of seed is determined by temperature. The main advantage of buying from seed is that seed is cheaper but plants take longer to mature when planted from seed. Seed variety is also important when selecting seed and farmers were told that they need to ask which variety the seed is, whether it’s a summer or winter variety and how long it will take to reach maturity. Farmers wanted to know how they can tell if they are buying good quality seed or not and were told to place 10 seeds in a newspaper, water it and place it in the sun. If all the seed germinates then they can utilize it but if less than half of the seed germinates they will know it is of poor quality.

Presenter demonstrating sowing depth and spacing

Farmers carrying seed packs

Farmers were given seed packs with vegetable seeds, measuring rope, sowing manual, ruler and fertilizer. To observe whether farmers understood, they were given a task to sow the seeds. All the farmers were able to sow the seeds and overall germination was about 80% and this showed that farmers understood.