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Dec 5 2011 11:26AM
Farmers learn the Indian way
SKILLS EXCHANGE: Mpumalanga farmers picked up new skills in Bangalore. Picture: Elvis Mashele
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Elvis Mashele

A farmer exchange programme got off to an exciting start when 20 farmers from the province switched their traditional roles for life skills training at the Art of Living in Bangalore, India.

The five-days of classes, which took place last week, were taught to farmers before they were deployed to work with local Indian farmers.

The director of Healthy Agro Group, which facilitated the exchange programme, Ramesh Nunna, said the programme was a vehicle to transfer much needed skills to South African farmers.

He said the aim was to get the farmers to understand the importance of agriculture as a primary means for economic inclusive growth.

“The exchange programme with India seeks to widen the narrow skills base of emerging farmers to harness their agricultural knowledge. It is visualised that this will serve as a lifeline to efforts to create jobs while growing the economy,” said Nunna.

Spokesperson for the department of agriculture, rural development and land administration Zanele Shabangu told The New Age the farmers were the first group to participate in the three-week programme.

He said more groups of farmers were scheduled to be sent to India and other countries to improve the severe skills shortage.

“India is ranked as one of the leading countries whose villagers optimally use their limited available land for household food security.

“So it is definitely a place from which South Africa – a country with vast tracks of land – can learn the techniques to increase its food production,” Shabungu said.

She said although farming and life skills might seem worlds apart, farmers concurred that they had reaped the benefits of the classes.

One of the farmers , Johannes Matjila, from Dr JS Moroka municipality in the Nkangala District, said the classes had widened their horizons as farmers.

“We have always seen ourselves as an isolated economic entity that is not welded to anything else, let alone life skills.

“But this has been an experience that I believe we would not exchange for anything in the world,” said Matjila.

Matjila said the life skills classes had taught them that a farm was never an island but was ineluctably connected to other things.

“The most outstanding thing that drew my attention was the fact that the classes rekindled the spirit of entrepreneurship in us,” he said.

The department’s HR director, Simangele Mbatha, said the life skills had inspired the confidence of the farmers as they set off to work closely with their Indian counterparts to learn valuable skills in agriculture.

“Indian farmers are known to use simple but effective ways of farming and that is the reason we are here,” she added.

On the eve of their departure from The Art of Living, farmers and officials were taken on a tour of various institutions linked to The Art of Living.

“These included an organic farm where a demonstration was given on how organic matter derived from cow manure, water and other natural ingredients as well as different methods of cropping.” said Mbatha.

Other places of interest visited included the Sri College of Ayuruvedic Science and Research Hospital, which highlights the ancient science of natural herbs.

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