NWU proves that MASDT training project is beneficial
For the past 12 years the Mobile Agri Skills Development and Training (MASDT) nonprofit company has been empowering farmers from selected rural communities in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. Now it wants to know how effective its programmes have been – and who better to assist than the North-West University (NWU)?
MASDT offers emerging farmers practical training and comprehensive support services within the agricultural sector. However, many similar training programmes have a low success rate and so MASDT took the bold step of requesting an independent evaluation. The company approached Prof Hendri Coetzee, who is part of the NWU’s Sustainability and Community Impact department, and Prof Werner Nell from the Optentia research focus area at the Faculty of Humanities, to conduct a qualitative evaluation study to determine its impact and effectiveness.
“We came in as independent assessors to analyse the impact the project has on the farmers and their immediate communities,” says Werner.
His and Hendri’s findings indicate that farmers who participated in the project have benefited immensely.
“We found that because of the project, the farmers acquired better farming skills that essentially gave them a better quality of life,” he says.
Top benefits that MASDT made possible
Material benefit: All interviewed farmers indicated that they benefited greatly from material and tangible resources (such as seeds, farming equipment, pesticides and fertilizers) that they had received from the programme.
Direct and indirect educational benefits: The courses and mentorship offered to the farmers had direct and indirect educational benefits. It was revealed that the project has a ripple effect, as those who were trained on the MASDT initiative have since up-skilled other community members.
Direct and indirect financial benefits: As a result of the MASDT project, a large number of farmers have transformed their financial situations. This project has also uplifted communities where the farmers operate.
Enhanced psychological, social and emotional wellbeing: The project has significantly impacted the psychological, social and emotional wellbeing of farmers and community members.
The overall conclusion of this NWU research team was that the MASDT project makes a significant difference in optimising the material and psycho-social wellbeing and quality of life, not just of the farmers and their relatives, but of entire communities within which the project operates.
Werner and Hendri announced their findings at a recent media event held in Nelspruit, which key players in the South African agricultural sector and representatives of the South African Government attended. The recommendations emanating from the study will be used to further improve the programme, and to motivate its replication in other regions of the country.