SMME incubator for emerging farmers in rural areas

Mobile Agri Skills Development and Training (MASDT) may have started out as a training and service provider in the agricultural sector, but the plight of emerging farmers in remote and rural areas led the company’s change to a non-profit company within two years.

Positioned as a “one-stop centre” for SMMEs in the agricultural sector, MASDT has received multiple awards for its groundbreaking incubation process that helps emerging farmers generate agricultural produce on a small-scale commercial basis.

Managing director Lynette Bezuidenhout says her passion for enriching the lives of rural communities has its roots in her early childhood. “I grew up in the rural parts of the Northern Cape where my father was a stud farmer. My love for the soil, knowledge gained from growing up on a farm, and passion for improving living standards all led to the birth of MASDT.”

According to Bezuidenhout, the company’s acclaimed three-year incubation has a clearly defined aim: to develop farmers to the point where they can sustainably generate income and employment from their agricultural business. “Not only are our graduates more capable of farming their own lands or obtaining employment in the agricultural sector; many of them actually become employers of other people as they expand their farming operations and require additional labour.”

MASDT’s core offering is their instantly recognisable mobile research and training vehicle that is tasked with bringing necessary training and skills to the farm gates instead of expecting trainees to make the costly journeys to urban education centres. This mobile “classroom” is in the form of a 20m Scania truck with a laboratory and high-tech electronic equipment. Two high-definition television screens on the outside of the truck relay what is going on inside, and all laboratory equipment runs on solar power.

“Our mobile laboratory is mainly there to provide affordable testing services to farmers,” says Bezuidenhout. “These tests determine crop selection based on the soil’s chemical composition, identify water quality problems that negatively affect crop production, and assist farmers with selecting the correct fertilisers and quantities required. In essence, it helps emerging farmers understand their natural resource base to reduce their risk and guesswork, and ultimately saves them money.”

Continuing with the necessary practicalities needed for emerging farmers to succeed, MASDT’s incubation process includes helping farmers gain access to productive land in communal areas; tractors, implements and other equipment needed for land preparation, planting, spraying and harvesting; and the guidance of a procurement manager when purchasing seeds, fertiliser, pesticides, packaging material, animal feed and other necessary requirements (on a cost recovery basis).

It’s no wonder that the project has had a resounding effect. On an economic level, emerging farmers receive affordable goods, services, training, and access to professional advice. This, in turn, reduces their farming costs and risk of crop failure, making them both more employable and more likely to create job opportunities when later expanding their farming operations.

“Our focus at MASDT is primarily on skills development and training, as well as local income generation, employment and food security,” concludes Bezuidenhout. “But on a fundamental level, what we are doing is creating hope for a better future, helping farmers believe in themselves, and giving back dignity.”

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