FARMERS' VOICE RADIO FOR SUSTAINABLE SMALLHOLDER AGRIBUSINESS IN LIMPOPO, SOUTH AFRICA
Limpopo Province, South Africa
06/2023 to 06/2024
Women and men smallholder farmers of subtropical crops in Vhembe, Limpopo
'Dzomo La Vhalimi’ or ‘Farmers’ Voice’ on Phalaphala FM
Limpopo province covers 12.46 million hectares and is one of the poorest in South Africa. The province faces the triple challenge of unemployment, inequality and poverty – this despite agriculture being identified as a key economic pillar for development, currently contributing three percent to the economy and employing ten percent of the population. The Vhembe district municipality has a population of 1.4 million people, the majority of whom work in the agricultural sector. Up to 56 percent of households live below the lowest poverty line and 11.5 per cent experience ‘multidimensionally poverty’ related to health, education, living standards and economic activity – the second highest level in South Africa. There are about 7,500 child-headed households and 51 per cent of households in the region.
Climate change and food insecurity are major challenges faced by smallholder farmers in the region, with prolonged droughts stressing crop production and diminishing productivity of agricultural lands in subsistence farming areas. Smallholders are disadvantaged by a lack of access to physical infrastructure, market intelligence, and land. It has been estimated that there are 3,034 commercial farming units and 303,000 smallholder farmers in the Limpopo Province (Statistics South Africa, 2020). There are many reasons for the low levels of marketing of smallholder agricultural produce, with lack of access to market information being one of the major constraints facing smallholder farmers in rural areas. High levels of illiteracy (60 percent) and poor access to extension agents and agricultural services in the region have been noted in several studies as contributing to smallholders’ ability to market produce and understand climate information.
Rainforest Alliance works with certified farmers in the region, who produce amongst other things avocados, macadamia and coffee. Following successful pilot Farmers’ Voice Radio projects in Uganda and Ethiopia, Rainforest Alliance has partnered again with the Lorna Young Foundation and local agricultural consulting, extension and training company Agricre (Pty) Ltd to develop and broadcast a FVR programme targeting emerging smallholder farmers in Limpopo with the aim of improving their knowledge, attitudes and practices relating to the production and marketing of subtropical crops.
Specifically, the Farmers’ Voice Radio programme, named ‘Dzomo La Vhalimi’ in local language Venda, aims to achieve the following objectives:
Objective 1: Develop the technical skills of farmers in the production, processing and marketing of subtropical products (with a particular focus on avocado, banana and macadamia).
Objective 2: Improve farmers’ financial literacy, sources of finance and ability to meet application criteria.
Objective 3: Encourage farmers’ cooperation to engage and form partnerships with government, private sector and other stakeholders,
The programme features the voices of 12 emerging smallholder farmers of crops such as avocado, macadamia, banana, mango and litchi, who meet monthly with Dr Thiofhi Muthikhitha of Agricre (Pty) Ltd and other relevant experts to record discussions on four different topics. These recordings are edited by Phalaphala FM into 25-minute episodes and broadcast weekly on Friday mornings at 4.30am – a prime listening time when farmers are at home preparing for a day in the fields. There is also a special episode on the last Wednesday of each month dedicated to answering listener questions from the previous four weeks. A YouTube channel will allow followers to listen again to any episode, as well as to view photo and video footage relevant to the discussions.
The first episode of Dzomo La Vhalimi was aired on Friday 7th July 2023 and will continue to be broadcast weekly until April 2024.
Nevondo Lutendo is a smallholder farmer growing litchis and avocados. She is a member of the 12-strong Programme Reference Group who meet monthly to record content for the Dzomo La Vhalimi radio programme. In the very first episode Nevondo shared her experience of using manure on her farm with listeners: "Farmers and listeners... I want to talk about organic fertilizers. I want to use cattle manure and poultry manure. We must have a storage facility giving it time to mature. Either way we must not use the manure from the kraal straight to the farm for application as it might have some pests and again to balance it using lime so that our trees have balance nutrition."