Vodacom, Eastern Cape Gov Partner on Agriculture School Programme

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Vodacom Eastern Cape Region – in partnership with the Eastern Cape Department of Education and Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR) – has launched Phase II of the technology driven School Agriculture and Food Security programme with the intake of 80 public schools across the Eastern Cape province.

What is distinct about this year’s programme is the incorporation of schools that cater for learners with special needs. This time around, the programme takes things up a notch by introducing learners to a high-tech platform that will see schools sell produce directly to the market.

Known as the Agriculture School Programme, flowing from the Vodacom Sustainability Living (VSL) project, it is designed to inspire school going children to enter the lucrative agricultural sector when they complete their schooling and be part of the agriculture value chain.

Mpumelelo Khumalo, Managing Executive for Vodacom Eastern Region, says: “We are delighted to be welcoming the new cohort of 80 government schools into the Agriculture School Programme. From the onset, we said this initiative is not a one-hit wonder, but we are here for the long haul, driving sustainable change and mind shifts among school going kids of this province. We are determined to inspire the youth of this province to play a significant role in food security, job creation and poverty alleviation through their active participation in the lucrative agriculture sector.”

Eastern Cape Department of Education MEC Fundile Gade has welcomed the support by Vodacom to assist in unlocking skills that would benefit communities beyond the school yard. “Ultimately these kinds of investments have a ripple effect in our communities. We hope the citizens we build inside the classroom will be able to grasp this and help the province in addressing food shortages through their contribution to where they live with the acquired skills. The call to make schools centres for community life starts here.  I also urge our learners to plough back in their communities with the skills and provide food security for their communities”.

The Agricultural Schools Programmme has a competition aspect to it where schools are identified and undergo a rigorous adjudication process.  To win the grand prize, schools need to demonstrate innovation and creativity in improving production. Secondly, they need to have a commitment to care for and ensure sustainability of the natural resources, including under-standing of adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Critically, they needed to demonstrate a degree of innovation and creativity in improving farming methods and deliver a consistent supply of products of high quality.

For the 2020 term, Emafini Primary School took the number one position and received the R418 000 grand prize, which was used to build school ablution facilities. Phambili Secondary School, which secured second place, won R180 000 used to build borehole to provide water for the entire school. Third place went to Clarkebury Agriculture School and received R161 000 to build a fence to secure the school. The 2021 rollout will include 70 new schools and will be on-boarded in October.

Vodacom will introduce schools to Connected Farmer this year. Developed by Vodacom Business, Vodacom Connected Farmer is a web and mobile phone enabled enterprise solution, offering a comprehensive, practical and user-friendly platform for agribusiness to engage and do business with smallholder farmers.

For example, a farmer can use any mobile device on any network to access the Connected Farmer’s platform and, through SMS, receive valuable information, including weather forecasts and market prices. The platform enables the enterprise to capture transactions with the farmers, allowing the agribusiness to record the farmers’ crop production at the point of delivery and to communicate volumes, quality and price to the farmers via SMS.