Schoeman Group honours Zamukele’s top performers of 2022

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We hosted our annual Day of Celebration on Wednesday 7 September 2022, to honour the emerging farmers in our Zamukele programme, specifically those who achieved outstanding results on their farms during the past year.

Zamukele means ‘adopt’ in Zulu, and is a national Schoeman Group CSI initiative that aims to empower emerging dry bean producers to become commercial farmers. Established in 2017, the project identifies and supports farmers of small white beans by providing access to mentorship, seed, fertiliser, and local and international markets.

This year four up-and-coming farmers, including one female farmer, were acknowledged for their success, in a season that was fraught with challenges related to the prevailing La Nina weather phenomenon.

These included 63-year-old Mothibi Pholo from Lichtenburg, North West, who netted the best yield at an average of 1.6 tons per hectare; 62-year-old Athalia Lolwane, also from Lichtenburg, who produced the cleanest grain with no foreign material; 56-year-old Petrus Tsotetsi from Kestell, Free State, who best maintained his fields and kept them weed-free throughout the season; and 53-year-old Ramodisa Monaisa from Gelukspan, North West, whose production improved the most over the past three years. 

“At our Day of Celebration, we proudly honour these four farmers as our top producers. The past season has not been easy; producers had to battle the heavy rains that caused flooding and crop damage in some parts of the country, and also had to face issues surrounding land ownership,” says HS van der Linde, Schoeman Group CEO of the Bean Division.

“We supported the farmers as much as possible during this time,” adds Success Mdluli, Zamukele Project Manager. “Together with TriFert, a Schoeman Group Company, we extended the initial budget to assist the farmers with top-dressing after the plant fertiliser mixture leached off due to heavy rains. We also hired an extension officer to provide technical support to the producers, and guided the farmers in pushing for 30-year land lease agreements.”

With the possibility of another La Nina weather event looming, Mdluli says the programme will take a different approach to the upcoming season. Farmers will be encouraged to plant earlier to avoid the early frost associated with La Nina, and the amount of hectares under cultivation in areas with poor drainage will be reduced to avoid nutrients being leached.

“The changing climate and its impact on yield definitely affects farmers. Many Zamukele producers are going to need a little encouragement to continue planting in the upcoming seasons, so hopefully we can secure with a lucrative price per ton for them,” Mdluli explains. “We expect to lose 10-15 farmers as a result of climate challenges, but we have 25 potential new farmers joining the programme for the new season.”

Zamukele currently supports 63 farmers across the Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the North-West. Each farmer receives four to five visits from one of three mentors at critical times during the production stages throughout the year. The mentors advise on mechanisation and share other farmers’ success stories to inspire and teach producers.

During the 2021/22 production year, 220 commercial farmers across five provinces produced in excess of 14,000 tons of dry white beans for the Schoeman Group. The farmers deliver their dry white beans to the bean plant in Delmas on a contract basis, where they are cleaned and sorted before being supplied to the food processing industry.

The Zamukele programme has a number of strategic partners that assist producers: TriFert supplies fertiliser (the cost of which is deducted when the farmers deliver their beans); Laeveld Agrochem has developed a spray programme for optimum bean production (at the correct dosage); Agri Technovation provides leaf nutrition recommendations, soil samples and fertiliser recommendations; and Pannar provides seed discounts (and assistance during crop failure).