The South African agriculture sector continues to deliver growth and value to the economy, with a growth rate of 13.1% recorded in 2020, 8.3% in 2021 and a 3.6% year-on-year growth rate so far this year.
Growth will, however, taper off soon if the sector does not find new ways of managing complexities that impact growth, such as gender diversity, says financial services provider Nedbank.
The Bureau of Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) expects agricultural growth will decelerate towards the end of this year and into 2023; however, transformation, inclusion and diversity can be essential growth drivers in the agricultural space and for the country as a whole, Nedbank says.
“By supporting a more diverse and inclusive environment, the sector can create jobs, and advance food security and sustainability,” notes Nedbank agriculture head John Hudson.
Nedbank cites research published by international journal Journal of Development Studies, finding that empowering women leads to economic benefits for their homes, communities and the sector.
This is echoed in a study conducted by consultancy McKinsey, titled ‘The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Africa’, which points out how Africa could add $316-billion to its yearly gross domestic product if it makes gender equality a priority.
“Currently, the South African labour market is more supportive of men than it is of women, with female unemployment at 37.3%,” Hudson explains, adding that there is a need for reform, both at policy level and local level, to improve access to financing, support and opportunities for women in an active way.
He believes the sector can reduce the hurdles that women face in the sector by taking measurable and functional steps to make access to finance and support easier.
For example, financial institutions, the public sector and other private sector companies can prioritise female empowerment and drive the diversity conversation throughout their interactions with the sector.
This will drive a wider approach to transformation and create opportunities that will give women the chance to realise their potential and expand their ideas into commercially viable enterprises.
Hudson says it is important to go beyond just paperwork and lip service and to empower women within the agricultural sector tangibly, giving them the financial instruments and support they need to be innovative, to grow their businesses, and to make the most of their opportunities.
Nedbank, for one, is committed to the growth and transformation of the agricultural sector and has put the gender inclusion conversation at the forefront of its agenda.
This commitment extends into job creation, a sustainable economy and sustainable solutions to contemporary issues facing female farmers, as well as into developing tailor-made solutions that fit their requirements and growth expectations.
CASE IN POINT
JSE-listed packaged goods manufacturer Tiger Brands has a growing supplier base of black women-owned enterprises across its value chain.
The company spends an average R4.2-billion on procurement with black women-owned enterprises a year and is actively working to increase that figure.
Tiger Brands says black women farmers, in particular, are a fundamental source of agricultural commodities used for the production of some of the company’s most iconic and well-loved brands, including Koo, All Gold, Black Cat and Ace.
At least 70 women farmers in key agricultural communities across South Africa provide ingredients, including ground nuts, tomatoes, white maize, small white beans, sorghum and wheat, to Tiger Brands.
A critical focus for Tiger Brands is to help scale these farmers to operate at a commercial level in South Africa – a barrier which few are able to break.
Tiger Brands has an Agriculture Aggregator programme in place to support farmers in reaching commercialised operations, including through market access, opportunities to receive input finance, and through providing agrarian and technical support.
In turn, the aggregators can enter into agreements with multiple smallholder farmers to procure the volume of agricultural raw materials required by Tiger Brands.
For example, SE Holdings director Mpumi Maesela, an aggregator for Tiger Brands since 2020, has been supplying the company with A-grade small white beans together with smallholder farmers across KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West, Limpopo and Free State.
Tiger Brands says it is always on the lookout for eligible black women farmers who have a desire and passion for farming, as well as access to land and water.
“If we are going to tackle the issue of food insecurity in a sustainable manner, it is agriculture that we need to look to, because farms and farmers produce the food that feeds the people.
“It is important that large organisations support the sector and build the capacity and capability of farmers so that they are well-equipped to ensure that all South Africans have access to a healthy and nutritious meal every day,” says Tiger Brands corporate affairs and sustainability chief officer Mary-Jane Morifi.