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Grain Academy grows young SA farmers

Syngenta and Grain SA, in partnership with the University of the Free State Business School in South Africa (SA), offers the Grain Academy, a tailored leadership programme to equip young SA farmers with the necessary tools to grow.

The academy launched in 2013 and is a platform where commercial grain producers come together to create new pathways for sustainable food production.

The training aims at educating young South African farmers that agriculture entails more than sitting on a tractor or herding cattle, instead they are taught to be versatile in their farms in order to remain sustainable.

The programme is not only aimed at equipping farmers with leadership skills on their farms, but also to take the lead in agricultural bodies, agricultural debates, and in agricultural forums and discussions with Government.

Thabo van Zyl, alumnus and Managing Director at Thuso Holdings, says attending the academy did not only advance his leadership skills, but it has also boosted his self-confidence.

“The course leaders were excellent, probably the best in their field. You definitely improve as a leader in your company, farm and home. Through the training I gained self-belief and my leadership skills were strengthened,” says Van Zyl. Each year’s candidates are divided into groups and tasked to come up with solutions for issues impacting agriculture.

Dr. Rene Uys, Facilitator from Thinking Fusion, says that they use biometric systems to assess the candidates. “As the facilitators our job is teaching the candidates the trait of transforming complex situations into a more favourable solution. The methodology of problem solving taught by the academy can be applied to every aspect of the candidate’s lives, gearing them to manage and lead,” says Uys.

The 4 main aspects that the programme focuses on are personal leadership, leading other individuals, leading a group and being a follower within a team. The training also offers interaction sessions where candidates gather to discuss among themselves challenges that they come across.

Solomon Tshongweni, alumnus of the class of 2017, from Villiersdorp in the Western Cape says that he was not confident in public speaking, but by attending the interaction classes he conquered his fear.

“I found it very challenging speaking in front of people, but the facilitators gave us the platform to express ourselves on a personal level and build good relationships. I am very grateful for the opportunity, because I am now very confident in meetings and I can calmly discuss issue while respecting the views of others,” says Tshongweni.

For this reason, he considers learning the ability to communicate and speaking publicly as the highlight of the training. The Grain Academy promotes the idea that effective management centres on the management of people and personal relationships.

Shane Buchanan, alumnus from the class of 2017, who recently joined his family farming business in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal, says that he applied to be part of the Grain Academy because he believes that farmers need to reach out to new opportunities and experiences to gain deeper knowledge and relevant skills to keep their businesses sustainable.

“The Grain Academy thrust us into an environment in which we had to confront the issue of diversity, and I personally believe that emerging from the academy with a greater understanding of our country’s diversity, and the challenges we face around this issue, was the most valuable lesson I learnt,” says Buchanan.

“I believe the Grain Academy is a small, yet significant step in the right direction for agriculture in South Africa. If we could pass on the lessons learnt in Grain Academy to more people, and expose people to the ideas and experiences that the Academy promotes, I believe we will see an agricultural revival throughout Southern Africa, and enormous growth for our sector,” he adds.

Syngenta takes pride in the positive feedback they receive from previous participants and is looking forward to what lies ahead. “The Grain Academy offers us the opportunity to get to know our country’s top producers, it provides us with a wonderful platform for learning and it prepares us more for the industry with agricultural leaders for a changing world,” Abraham Vermeulen, Commercial Unit Head, Syngenta South Africa.

Click here to see what this year’s Grain Academy will cover.

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