South African tech helps small-scale farmers grow

Agri-tech organisation Khula! (or “to grow” in Zulu), is attempting to level the playing field between large and small-scale farmers, BBC news reported.

Small-scale farmers lack access to resources and often find it challenging to get their produce to market. Khula! is attempting to provide a solution to these problems.

Launched in 2018, Khula! works with a network of more than 7,500 farmers and hundreds of suppliers and agriculture consultants.

Its technical support function for small farmers is a significant benefit, particularly for those based in remote locations.

“If you’re a first-generation farmer, for instance, you only know what your neighbour knows,” said Ayanda Vana, Chief Operating Officer at Khula!.

Another significant difficulty for small-holders is funding, which Khula! attempts to solve by providing a platform for smaller farmers to sell their produce online.

“The biggest cry, or problem, within this space was funding,” Vana said.

“As a farmer, if you want to scale up, and if you want to grow, you’ll need funding.”

BBC News spoke to Siphiwe Sithole, a small-scale farmer of indigenous crops based just outside of Johannesburg.

Sithole struggles with several issues pertinent to South Africa, such as robberies and farm workers being the victims of attacks.

In addition, it is difficult for small-scale farmers to get access to fertiliser and water for their crops.

As a result, these farmers often need to go to lengths to access such supplies while struggling to keep their running costs down.

Ayanda Vana, Chief Operating Officer at Khula!

“We’ve seen with the escalating prices of oil, the further you are from the market, the more you’re going to bleed, and you’re not going to be able to sell some of the stuff [produce],” Sithole told BBC News.

Sithole has a firm grasp on a niche market in the South African farming community, specifically farming organic and indigenous produce.

This strategy means that her brand — African Marmalade — does not have to compete with large commercial producers that have easier access to supplies.

Sithole is one of many small-scale farmers in South Africa, with approximately 80% of farmland accounted for by farms smaller than 10 hectares in size.

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