Small-holder cotton farmer training
Lack of knowledge and expertise among small-holder cotton farmers are major constraints that impede growth in the emerging cotton farming sector. Cotton requires significantly more management input and specialist skills than most other field crops traditionally grown by small-holders. In response, Cotton SA has established a formal training program for small-holder cotton farmers. The training program was successfully launched at the Lowveld College of Agriculture at Nelspruit in 2001. To increase training capacity, training facilities were also established in all the small-holder farmer cotton production regions elsewhere in South Africa.
The formal skills development program meets various unit standards at NQF level 1. It is organised in four five-day modules, synchronised with the normal crop production cycle and presented over a 12-month period.
The subjects covered in the four modules are:
- Introduction, soil preparation and planting
- Plant protection, pests, diseases and weeds
- Pre-harvest crop preparation, harvesting and grading
- Financial management
The courses cover both theory and practice. Around 60% of the course content has practical application. Course content is taught by experts from across the cotton industry who share their knowledge with the groups in training. By the end of the 2013/14 training season, 1043 small-holder farmers have attended the courses. CottonSA is an accredited training institution. The courses receive primary funding from the AGRISETA as well as contributions from industry and local government.