The Emerging Farmer Initiative was launched by British American Tobacco South Africa (“BATSA”) in 2011 to facilitate transformation within the tobacco industry in South Africa. Since inception, the initiative has been funded by BATSA. The project creates new era farmers i.e. 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 that their crops mix provides a sustainable source of financial and food security and have a positive impact for their communities.
The groups of farmers successfully cultivated sun-cured Virginia tobacco, which is then sold to BATSA through Limpopo Tobacco Processors. The ultimate goal of this project is to technically grow the farmers, provide incubation and farmer development, financial administration and central purchasing services. By doing this, Lemang Agricultural Services, a division of AFGRI Agri Services, then 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 in total, farming at 15 sites in five provinces; Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, touching 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, Vastfontein.
Lemang Agricultural Services will project manage the total programme with a tobacco agronomy team and support from Lemang’s existing team.
Once cigarettes and other tobacco products can be sold again, the tobacco farmers supported by this great initiative stand to benefit enormously, allowing the crop already harvested to be sold and duly processed. This will ensure that money is put back into the farmers pockets, and averting further ecomomic hardships for them and their families. This will also allow the new era tobacco farmers to plan accordingly for the season ahead, with the hope of prosperity into the future.