It was formally reported in May 2010 by IFAP and ESFIM Program Management that the leadership of the national programme in South Africa had to be transferred from the National African Farmers Union (NAFU) to Agri SA as a result of internal problems in NAFU. Following up on this decision, the Agrinatura lead researcher responsible for South Africa met with officials of Agri SA in August 2010 to discuss taking the programme forward. The local consultant recruited earlier by NAFU participated in the meeting and provided critically needed continuity. It was agreed that IFAP will confirm takeover of ESFIM by Agri SA and the original priority research theme areas would be revisited. To start off that process, the local consultant was commissioned by NRI to review the prevailing situation in the agricultural sector in South Africa as a basis for the review of the thematic areas to be funded under ESFIM 2. The expectation was that the agreed priorities will form the basis of a contract between LEI Wageningen and Agri SA for ESFIM research funding under the programme supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture (LNV) on Collaborative Research Activities in ESFIM Phase 2 (2010 and 2011).
The local consultant’s report confirmed that the three thematic areas identified during the ESFIM I National Workshop as priority issues for smallholder farmers in South Africa remain very relevant and topical. The order in which they were prioritised, as below, is also appropriate. The thematic areas are:
Farmer mobilization for collective action: the issues to be investigated include determining the forms of farmer organization that facilitate collective marketing by smallholder farmers and, related to that the policy and regulatory reforms required to promote collective marketing groups. Further to the above, identifying opportunities for public and donor investment in promoting collective marketing by smallholder farmers in the identified markets.
Business Partnerships between farmers and agribusiness: Identifying types of partnerships between smallholder farmers and major market players that assure access to remunerative market opportunities; as well as the policy and regulatory framework required to foster and sustain the partnerships.
Policy and Programme Review: Identifying factors hampering implementation and/or enforcement of existing policies and regulations intended to improve access to remunerative markets and entrepreneurship by smallholder farmers. Related to this, identify any gaps in enabling policies and regulatory systems and propose feasible reforms.
Following consultations with the NRI lead researcher, the key recommendations in the report stress the need to focus ESFIM research activities on issues related to the first two theme areas with possibilities for near-term uptake by smallholder farmers in South Africa. Based on this consideration, two major cases are to be studied. The first involves investigating how the capacity of smallholder farmers in South Africa can be enhanced to enable them utilise existing formal marketing systems to collective market durable grains. It will, for instance, include examining the policy and regulatory factors that limit use of commodity exchange-based trading and finance systems which are well developed in South Africa. It will also investigate how problems of scale diseconomies can be addressed through effective group mobilisation and capacity building in collective marketing. The second study will explore similar issues in marketing of fresh produce by smallholder farmers in South Africa. The report and the recommendations made are to be discussed by executives of Agri SA and representatives smallholder farmers organisations at the provincial level during a meeting which is most likely to be held in January 2011.