The role of smallholder farmers has come under the spotlight in SA as the country navigates the tricky process of land reform. Smallholder farming is billed as the main avenue through which emerging black farmers are likely to grow their share of the country’s agricultural economic activity. But SA’s smallholder farmers face major obstacles and most of them originate from a lack of financial muscle, knowledge and networks. There has been growing evidence from across Africa that organising smallholder farmers into groups helps them overcome some of these challenges. Farmer groups among vegetable growers in Freetown, Sierra Leone, frankincense co-operatives in Tigray, Ethiopia, and potato farmer groups in Malawi have boosted poor farmers’ success by sharing costs and facilitating access to relevant information. A study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council adds to this body of evidence. It looked at fertiliser use trends among South African smallholder farmers who were orga...

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