If the ban on cigarette sales is lifted, tobacco farmers supported by the Emerging Farmer Initiative will benefit enormously, enabling them to sell and duly process crops that have already been harvested, says agricultural services company Afgri.
The organisation notes that permitting cigarettes sales again will ensure that money is put back into the farmers' pockets, and avert further economic hardships for affected farmers and their families.
This will also enable so-called “new era” tobacco farmers to plan accordingly for the season ahead.
The Emerging Farmer Initiative was launched and funded by British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) in 2011, to facilitate transformation within the tobacco industry in South Africa. The project creates "new era" farmers, for example tobacco producers, within previously marginalised communities in suitable agricultural areas of South Africa.
These "new era" farmers produce sun-cured Virginia tobacco and food crops (vegetable, maize and bean production) on a rotational farming basis to ensure their crop’s mix provides a sustainable source of financial and food security and has a positive impact for their communities.
The groups of farmers have successfully cultivated sun-cured Virginia tobacco, which is then sold to Batsa through Limpopo Tobacco Processors.
The ultimate goal of this project is to grow the farmers technically, and provide incubation and farmer development, financial administration and central purchasing services.
By doing this, Lemang Agricultural Services, a division of Afgri Agri Services, creates suitably trained, experienced and sustainable "new era" tobacco farmers, who can successfully progress to the status of commercial tobacco farmers.
The initiative currently empowers 150 farmers, farming at 15 sites in five provinces, including Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. This impacts 4 300 beneficiaries, offering support through incubation, training and mentorship.
Each of the "new era" farmers are at various stages of development with continuous training and practical guidance from mentors.
Beyond empowering the "new era" farmers to become experienced, an extension of the programme is to empower the "new era" farmers to become successful business owners by offering assistance and training in business development, financial and administrative assistance at Lemang’s training academy, in Vastfontein, Gauteng.
Lemang Agricultural Services will project manage the total programme with a tobacco agronomy team and support from Lemang’s existing team.