AgriTour South Africa broadens horizons for East Anglian farmers
- Credit: Archant
The creativity of foreign farmers in devising profitable solutions from agricultural problems proved to be an inspiration for their British counterparts on a week-long visit to South Africa.
AgriTour South Africa was the third such venture organised by Norfolk farmer Susie Emmett, a former BBC World Service broadcaster who now travels the globe as an agricultural videographer with her company Green Shoots Productions.
She took nine farmers to nine farms during a 600-mile tour of the valleys and mountains of the Western Cape from November 22 to 29. The aim was to look at examples of outstanding agricultural practice to see what lessons can be brought back to the UK.
They saw efficient use of resources including water and fertilisers, detailed knowledge of insect life cycles in order to control pests and innovative problem-solving in a country whose farmers face climate, landscape and political challenges with little financial support.
Among the tour party was David Jones, farm manager at Morley Farms, near Wymondham, who said: 'There is a lack of government subsidy there, but also a lack of government intervention, so you have got to think about it in a completely different way.
'In this country, rightly or wrongly, the government looks after us, but there are a lot of countries in the world that don't have subsidies, so everything they (the farmers) do is to make money, because there is no other money to back it up.
'There was one bloke who was quite inspirational. His father had spent a lifetime controlling wild boar on his vineyards, but when the son came back he started farming them at a very high price for the fancy restaurants in Cape Town.
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'This bloke had worked in the National Parks for years, so he had a very good understanding of wildlife and ecosystems, so he set up accommodation and game drives in the evenings. He explained to visitors about the wildlife and the farm and how they worked together.
'He turned the wildlife into a money stream by inviting tourists. That is a great example of somebody turning what appeared to be nothing into a viable business.'
Mrs Emmett, whose family farms at Oxborough, near Swaffham, said: 'What was evident to me was that countries where there are climatic challenges, challenges regarding supplies of important inputs like water, fertilisers and spare parts, or where things are traditionally not so straightforward as in the UK – these countries are producing very innovative agricultural businesses.
'Another thing was the use of resources on the farm. Even if they were considered a problem, they turn them into profitable solutions.
'One farm had wild boar destroying their vineyards – now the animals are penned in and farmed for meat. Another interesting one was a pernicious grass weed which is now being grown for turf.
'The farmer saw the vigorous nature of that grass and now he is growing it and delivering it to people for a profit. He has managed to turn around the fortune of his farm business by turning a problem into a profit-making solution.'
The trip was supported by grants from CCA Landskills, funded by Defra.
Farmers and others involved in agriculture who wish to register interest in applying for a place on a future AgriTour to Africa should contact email@example.com