UFS agri students win global award

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A team of four UFS students took the number one spot in the Ifama International Case Study Competition. From the left are Carien Denner, Alina Ntsiapane, Andries Strauss and Michelle Marais

A group of University of the Free State (UFS) Agriculture students scooped up an international competition. The students, who are studying at the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and the Department of Agricultural Economics, walked away as victors in the recent International Case Study Competition presented by the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (Ifama).

They participated against teams from 17 countries all over the world before going head to head with the Philippines in the final round. The team took a personal approach to the problem, which gave them an innovative edge against the competitors.

“It was not just about the business plan, but also about the story behind the solution to the problem. On the international stage, this was a fresh and inspiring perspective,” said UFS Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Dr Jan Swanepoel.

The winning group includes Carien Denner, Alina Ntsiapane and Andries Strauss from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, as well as Michelle Marais from the Department of Agricultural Economics.

According to the team, small scale farmers are currently disadvantaged in the agricultural industry. However, private sector involvement can help to turn that around. “Small-scale farmers have no land and therefore have no collateral to gain funding. They also struggle to build networks and gain access to training and mentorship programmes,” expressed Denner in their submitted video.

“The micro and macro environments in which these farmers find themselves fit perfectly into the value chain. When they are placed at the centre and the private sector is incentivised to get involved in their development, both their profitability and productivity will increase,” added Marais.

They emphasised the benefits for not only the industry but for small scale sugarcane farmers as well. “Although there are many costs involved, the many benefits include an improved livelihood for these farmers and access to market and sustainability among others. The industry as a whole will also become more profitable and provide jobs for the youth,” explained Ntsiapane.

“If these farmers could attain the skill to identify soil with the most cost-benefit potential and learn to implement proficient management strategies, they would increase production and have access to suppliers and buyers,” said Strauss.

The top essays and the winners will be published in a special online publication, Food for the Future Essay Collection, on Ifama’s website.

Nomaqhawe Mtebele

nomaqhawe@mahareng.co.za