Agri-Expo is hosting a group of 13 young international agricultural leaders from across the Commonwealth for a special agricultural mission of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC).
The mission, from Tuesday August 29 to Friday September 8, with the theme “Bridging the gap between emerging and commercial farmers”, focuses on agriculture in the Western Cape – from Wupperthal to the Overberg.
According to Johan Ehlers, CEO of Agri-Expo and board trustee of the RASC, the Next Generation (NG) 6th Assistance and Understanding Mission marks a unique opportunity for Agri-Expo and the RASC to collaboratively promote a positive image of South African agriculture on an international platform.
“Founded in 1957 by its president, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, the RASC plays a pivotal role in the promotion of agriculture.
“RASC is a confederation of over 50 agricultural societies, research institutions and agricultural associations across the Commonwealth with HRH The Princess Royal as President,” Mr Ehlers says.
“The RASC organises a biennial NG mission to a commonwealth member state, recognising that today’s young are the leaders of tomorrow.”
One of these young leaders, and the mission leader, is Breyton Milford, operations manager of Agri-Expo.
According to Mr Milford, the mission is a hands-on understanding and assistance experience to provide extension work in support of local farmers.
The mission will start near Wupperthal with a visit to emerging small scale farmers in order to showcase real subsistance farming still in operation in South Africa.
“Wupperthal is unique in the sense that these farmers don’t farm on their own land, but on mission grounds, similar to many other communal land farmers in South Africa,” Mr Milford says.
“The delegates will experience a mule plough and dorsvloer. We hope to learn and understand why these farmers are still farming this way, what influence they have on their immediate environment and what assistance we could offer them.
“The next stop will be with farmers who have developed from these very circumstances, including the rooibos farming operation of Niklaas Slinger – former national emerging farmer of the year – and his son Andries. In Bredasdorp we will visit André Cloete, who has already developed as a commercial farmer even though not farming on his own land.”
According to Mr Milford, another goal is to experience how farm workers are included in commercial agriculture with lessons that may be learned for other countries.
The mission includes a visit to the Agri Dwala Group in Napier to investigate the success of farmers and workers working together.
As all the delegates are representatives from agricultural assocations, they will visit the Moorreesburg Show to assist with the judging of the Youth Show and to allow comparison with shows in other countries.
Other stops on the tour include small scale as well as commercial farming operations in Clanwilliam, Lambertsbay, Paarl, Ceres, Breede River Valley and Philippi.
“The mission is a learning opportunity that enables delegates to share their knowledge in the host country; and grows their agricultural perspective to create a positive impact once returning home.
We believe it strengthens links between young people in building networks for future assistance and cooperation, and by increasing respect and understanding amongst young leaders,” Mr Milford says.
“The NG plays a huge role within the RASC and its member societies as it allows fellow NGs to participate and share experiences with people of a similar interest.”
Mr Milford will be assisted by Aled Rhys Jones, Assistant CEO of the Royal Welsh Show, as well as by Riana van Rensburg, Agricultural Advisor of the Western Cape Agriculture Department, partner of the mission. Other participants are from Papua New Guinea, Australia, Malawi, United Kingdom, Zambia, Singapore, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa.