With the help of Israeli agricultural expertise and the support of the Roman
Catholic Church, a South African NGO is aiming to professionally train rural
residents who have become the beneficiaries of the country’s redistributed
Following the 2011 Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, Keren Kayemeth
LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), the South African Council for Bishops
and the NGO Food and Trees for Africa banded together with the aim of improving
sustainable farming in local South African communities.
jointly agreed to establish an agricultural research and development center in
the Johannesburg region where local farmers would be able to benefit from expert
training and ongoing studies. At the end of 2012, the team conducted a
feasibility study of the region, which was followed in early 2013 by visits to
the region from Israeli KKL-JNF agricultural experts.
“The intention of
the center will be to provide similar services to the [Arava] R&D center
here,” Quinton Naidoo, head of the Farmer Eco Enterprise Development (FEED)
program at Food and Trees for Africa, told The Jerusalem Post prior to a tour of
Ein Sataf outside of Jerusalem on Sunday.
Like the Yair R&D Station
of the Central Arava Regional Council – where Naidoo and two of his colleagues
had spent three days this week – the Johannesburg R&D center will aim to
provide extension, support and research to the South African agricultural
community, according to Naidoo.
“We will bring in farmers from all over
the country to stay at the center and provide them with practical as well as
directional training,” he explained.
South Africa is by no means lacking
for water, and the climatic conditions are favorable for sugarcane, maize,
wheat, vegetables, vineyards and a diverse range of other crops, Naidoo
However, ever since apartheid ended and democratic elections
occurred in 1994, a process of land reform has been underway. Land all over the
country is still being redistributed, with many plots going to displaced
citizens who live in rural villages that lack any type of basic
The reforms are therefore giving the land to the people, but
without training the people how to farm that very land, Naidoo
“There’s a gap of giving people land without the skills,” he
continued. “An organization like ours is positioning ourselves to deliver the
essential resources to develop the land.”
The FEED program, since its
creation two years ago, has been aiming “to fill that gap” and give the people
the tools they need to successfully raise sustainable crops instead of “lying
dormant on the land,” Naidoo explained.
“They need a livelihood, so the
time is right for this type of emerging farmer program,” he said.
far, the program has seven community farms operating under its leaders, who
provide training, mentorship, operational support and marketing techniques to
farmers who often lack expertise and literacy but are passionate in their desire
to till the land, according to Naidoo.
All services that farmers
participating in FEED receive are free, as the program thrives off of corporate
and private donations.
The goal is to work with the farms for five years
until they have “a management structure that is able to sustain itself with
relevant skills and business know-how,” Naidoo noted.
“We are only two
years into it but we are seeing success,” he said, and that some of the farms
have already won awards for their crop quality.
Another aim of FEED and
Food and Trees for Africa, at large, is to entice young people into the
agricultural sector, by showing them how effective, sustainable farming can lift
their families out of poverty and transform their land, Naidoo
“It’s about making agriculture sexy for young people,” he
continued, noting that the technology involved in the sector is intuitive to
this age group. “Agriculture is becoming attractive to them.”
Johannesburg R&D center will be located on church land just outside of the
city, in the Gauteng province. By visiting the Arava R&D station as well as
other parts of Israel this week, the team will now be able to better focus their
own center’s strategy, Naidoo explained.
Experts from FEED and Food and
Trees for Africa will be returning for extended stays at the Arava station in
order to receive proper training.
Meanwhile, KKL-JNF will be helping the
team to access the technology and skills necessary for assembling an optimal
R&D center, Naidoo said.
“Research should form part of the whole
process from concept to implementation,” added Lucky Xaba, a senior community
forester at Food and Trees for Africa.
Engaging other stakeholders such
as universities and research institutions in the activities of the R&D
center will be critical, as will be constant communication with the local
community, Xaba stressed.
Both Xaba and Naidoo also noted the demand for
planting trees in the rural communities, and Food and Trees for Africa intends
to raise the number the organization has planted – which has currently reached 4
“We are hoping to reach thousands of people,” Naidoo said.