FANRPAN Annual High Level Regional Food Security Policy Dialogue 2010

Two minutes with: Thulasizwe Mkhabela, agriculture economist

  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /var/www/sites/dialogue2010.fanrpan.org/sites/all/modules/date-6.x-2.4/date/date/date.theme on line 255.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /var/www/sites/dialogue2010.fanrpan.org/sites/all/modules/date-6.x-2.4/date/date/date.theme on line 260.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /var/www/sites/dialogue2010.fanrpan.org/sites/all/modules/date-6.x-2.4/date/date/date.theme on line 261.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /var/www/sites/dialogue2010.fanrpan.org/sites/all/modules/date-6.x-2.4/date/date/date.theme on line 255.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /var/www/sites/dialogue2010.fanrpan.org/sites/all/modules/date-6.x-2.4/date/date/date.theme on line 260.
  • strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /var/www/sites/dialogue2010.fanrpan.org/sites/all/modules/date-6.x-2.4/date/date/date.theme on line 261.
1 September 2010
Liza Burger
Source: 
Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa Terraviva

Moving product from the farm to the market is probably one of the greatest barriers for small-scale farmers who want to be more than just subsistence farmers.

Research into how to overcome these challenges and the practical implementation of research findings are one of the focus points of Thulasizwe Mkhabela.

Mkhabela is a senior researcher in agricultural economics at the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) based in Pretoria.

His present work at the NAMC entails linking small-scale farmers to viable markets. On a broader base, the NAMC is mandated by the South African government to advise it on agricultural policy.

“We are frequently asked to give our input and evaluate the government’s agricultural policies before they are implemented or changed. The NAMC also does work for organised agriculture, like Grain SA and the Milk Producers’ Organisation and the private sector.”

Putting research into action is a jump many researchers never make. For Mkhabela, however, his work investigating the market potential for produce from small-scale farmers in South Africa, has been rewarding.

“I’ve been able to give advice to many small-scale farmers, but the greatest reward is to personally get involved to link farmers to markets,” he says.

He proudly explains how he helped a community of about 2,000 rural farmers in Msinga in northern KwaZulu-Natal to sell their vegetables to local markets. “There is also the vision to market the Msinga vegetables, especially tomatoes, to bigger markets and even government agencies.”

Mkhabela’s personal involvement and hands-on approach has made this project one of his favourites. “I don’t have to wait for policy to change, but have a role to play in forming policy. I can now also help on a practical level and really change people’s lives.”

Mkhabela is also the co-ordinator of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) node in South Africa, which is hosted by NAMC.

“I’ve found that the information FANRPAN has on emerging farmers and developing agricultural markets are very useful to me as a researcher.”

Mkhabela is hoping that everyone involved in organised agriculture and the public sector in South Africa will sooner, rather than later, catch on to the idea of an agricultural research network within the African context.

“Unfortunately the idea behind FANRPAN is not embraced by everyone in South Africa due to the many agricultural research foundations and institutions we already have. The challenge is to convince everybody of the value FANRPAN can add to our country’s bank of knowledge, especially in the African context.”