Cooperative Mentors: Serving Beef Farmers in South Africa by Unlocking Markets
During the height of the COVID lockdown, beef farmers in South Africa working with the GENEX Cooperative Development Program (CDP) were faced with the complete shutdown of cattle auction sites due to COVID travel restrictions Which meant farmers were not able to sell their product on time. They were losing revenue and they were incurring extra expenses to feed cattle they earmarked for sale. At that moment, CDP mentors saw an opportunity. GENEX CDP mentors are trained community members often fellow farmers who are employed by the project to support the farmers in their cooperatives to improve productivity and profitability.
Remembering the lessons learned from a foot and mouth disease outbreak a few years earlier that forced farmers to direct market their animals to buyers via online trading platforms, co-ops decided to market their members' livestock directly to the meat processing facility and cut out the middlemen at the auction facility. Acting quickly, mentors mobilized early to engage farmers despite COVID restrictions. When farmers could not market their cattle via auctions, video marketing was employed to sell directly to the meat processor. CDP staff assisted in the selection of the best animals to market. Despite the challenging time, farmers worked together, consolidated their animals, and saved on transport. Farmers on average increased their profit by 8 to 9 percent by saving on auction commission costs and transport which brought hope in a very uncertain time.
Mentors have become a defining characteristic of all GENEX development activities. Generally, mentors provide support in the following areas: farming best practices, farm operations, and management, and network building. Mentors have become the face of the CDP. These are the people farmers see on their farm on a day-to-day basis." South Africa Regional Manager Thukela Mashologu had this to say: “Mentors are not arrogant. They don't talk down to people.” Development through mentoring can take more time but is overall effective because farmers have a high level of trust in mentors and have the local support they need to adopt new practices or access new markets.
Without the mentors, skipping the auction houses and going directly to the processing facility would not have occurred. The legacy of the mentorship program is that even today after lockdowns have subsided, farmers are still getting premium prices by skipping the middleman.
GENEX is a global cooperative leader dedicated to providing innovative genetic and reproductive solutions to our progressive dairy and beef member and customers. Headquartered in the heart of America’s Dairyland in Shawano, Wisconsin. GENEX operatives in 70+ different countries with 500 employees worldwide, and 7,000 members in the US. GENEX is proud to work with farmer dairy and beef cooperatives in Peru and South Africa through the USAID Cooperative Development Program.
This post comes from an implementer of the Cooperative Development Program under USAID’s DDI LFT Bureau.