Friday, January 29, 2010

Adaptability

Today’s adventures lead us west of Johannesburg to “Far Deal” School, located in Zuurbekom near Soweto. The school operates with the intention of providing agricultural training, skills and human development to socially disadvantaged blacks with the intention of returning those skills to their local families and communities. Currently Sabina Khoza, the school’s founder and leader sends 63 students at a time through 8 months of training that is 70% practical and 30% theory. Only 39% of the students are sponsored with aid to take training, the other students are put through the training utilizing donations and income from produce sales. Training Development and Sustainability with limited resources is the mission statement for the Fair Deal School. We were warmly greeted by Sabina, staff and students and left with handshakes, hugs, some tears and a deeper understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities these students face in their communities.

Tracking north, we headed through a small mountain pass to Inyoni Crocodile Farm to discover the concept of raising crocs for hide and meat. We learned that sex of the crocs can be pre-determined by temperature during incubation of the eggs. Hide harvest doesn’t begin until at least five years of age and reproduction doesn’t occur until seven years of age. We viewed small to large crocs ranging from two to 18 feet in length, with crocs weighing more that a ton. Our gracious hosts also treated us to a wonderful meal of sausage, salads and steaks.

Our next visit was to see Dr. Morne de la Rey at Embrio Plus Centre where he gave us a brief history involving the start of the veterinary practice with his father in 1979. Dr. Morne began with bull collection at the age of 14 years. The development of breeds that blend the disease and heat resistance of the Africana and the meat producing ability of the Simmental was sped up by the use of embryo transfer and artificial insemination. The Centre ships semen and embryos all over the world. The world’s first successful bovine cloning was produced at the Embrio Plus Centre.

The day concluded with a discussion of agricultural financing in South Africa. Dr. Hans Balyamujura, from ABSA bank spoke with the class about the challenges of ag lending in post-apartheid South Africa. Different soil, similar economics shape the landscape with the industry facing high land and input costs while marketing commodities being of their biggest challenges. The governments’ post-apartheid goal of 30% land exchanges to disadvantaged black’s also present large lending challenges to banks. The ag outlook is favorable, but the global recession presents similar challenges to South Africa as we are experiencing in the United States.

GSM: Kevin Hoff

Reporters: BJ Richter, Tammy Anderson