The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has been working on building capacity to drive the smallholder horticulture empowerment and promotion (SHEP) approach in the country, from a modernised and sustainable template. As part of this capacity building, DAFF opened an office in Japan in 2012 establishing linkages to revitalise relations between the department and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) office in South Africa.

SHEP is a market-orientated agriculture in Africa project that encourages producers to move away from “growing and selling” their produce to “grow to sell.” The SHEP approach is geared to assisting smallholder producers increase their income by capacitating them to better manage group dynamics and improve production through various techniques, such as knowing the market requirement before they start to produce.

There have been positive results from engagements with the JICA office in Japan and South Africa. The JICA office facilitated a training programme tailor-made for South African smallholder producers and extension practitioners and established pilot projects with relevant infrastructure.

The Japanese surveyed the provinces of Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga as part of their feasibility studies. Officials from the three provinces received training on the approach in Japan and Kenya.

Capacity development training in Japan and Kenya has been offered to 20 South African officials. Selected officials learned how to improve the productivity of smallholder horticultural producers. Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo have since piloted the implementation of the SHEP approach with the support of Japanese SHEP experts.

In December last year and February this year, DAFF, in collaboration with JICA, conducted a three-day SHEP training programme for 57 district extension coordinators from all the provinces to help them understand how smallholder producers can benefit from market-oriented agriculture and to ensure proper implementation of the programme in the country. A three-man group of South African officials are to attend SHEP training in Japan and Kenya in May; Another group will attend the training in November.

The implementation of the SHEP approach has seen 743 smallholder producers benefiting in the pilot provinces. These producers now have access to the market and can find their own markets. Producers sell their products in the formal and the informal markets.

Producers participating in the SHEP Approach will start to create job opportunities in their communities to satisfy the market. Smallholder producers will produce more, based on the market requirement and will need to appoint seasonal workers. This will have a direct and positive impact on the rural economy.

Through this intervention, producers learn to understand the importance of production based on market requirements. This will result in the creation of about 5 000 jobs—at least one per beneficiary.

All provinces will be implementing the SHEP approach and 5 000 smallholder producers, of which 50% are young people, will benefit during the current medium-term strategic framework. – Press release