More than 26 000 acquire skills and training

14 April 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT



WINDHOEK

The Agri Advisory Services Division’s (AASD) training interventions have benefitted 26 005 people since their inception in April 2017, providing farmers with the opportunity to acquire practical knowledge and skills in various farming aspects.

This is according to Agribank CEO Sakaria Nghikembua, who was speaking at the bank’s annual mentor’s workshop in Otjiwarongo, taking place this week.

Nghikembua said the AASD exists to transfer skills and knowledge as well as change attitudes towards farming in order to increase productivity and promote business relationships between clients and the bank.

“The ultimate objective is to transform agricultural ventures into viable business enterprises. Current AASD capacity development interventions use different methodologies, namely face-to-face training courses, lectures, practical sessions, excursions, farmers’ information days, published articles, radio broadcasts as well as mobile phone and social media learning.”

Nghikembua said 79% of the short training courses conducted in the 2020/21 financial year focused on building capacity in diversified farming enterprises such as poultry, crop and hydroponic production, amongst others.

He said this has contributed to building farmers’ resilience to climatic shocks.

Positive reception

“Moreover, high average participant ratings of 94% across lectures, training and practical sessions conducted show a positive reception of the information imparted.”

According to him, when it comes to mentorship, identified clients are offered the opportunity to receive mentorship free of charge until the bank decides to introduce cost-recovery measures.

He said these selected clients must be willing to sign a mentorship agreement to demonstrate their commitment to farming productively.

A mentee is attached to a mentor based on their location or operational zone so as to maintain regular contact for personalised advice and guidance based on the mentee’s needs.

Mentoring is based on commitment, and a mutual trust relationship between the mentor and the mentee for it to be effective, he said.

Positive effects

According to Nghikembua, 72 mentees were on board with the first roll-out from September 2017 to March 2020, of which 53 were men and 19 women. A total of 33 were successfully weaned off after the completion of their three-year agreement period, at which point 39 mentees remained in the programme with an additional nine mentees who have been recently onboarded - bringing the total number of current mentees to 48.

“Mentorship has had positive effects, with data showing a reduction in livestock mortality rates for mentees. Mortality amongst cattle reduced significantly from 23% in 2019/20 to 6% in 2020/2021.” Furthermore, Nghikembua said cattle off-take rates have increased over the mentorship period from 14% in 2018/2019 to 35% in 2020/2021.

“This also signifies an increase in the production of marketable animals and the adoption of business principles in farming. It is pleasant to note the mentee success stories where mentees have attested to have acquired significant farm management skills and witnessed improvements in farm production and incomes because of mentorship.”

The CEO added that mentees have been able to expand on-farm employment from an average of three to four permanent workers. Furthermore, the mentee satisfaction rate remains high, at a 91%, as per a survey conducted in 2020.

In addition, grant funding from GIZ totalling about N$4.2 million was secured for the 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 financial years to re-enforce training provision to women and youth.

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