The SA Army base at Marievale on Gauteng’s Far East Rand is another beneficiary of civilian expertise, this time in the form of agricultural skills as part of Project Koba-Tlala, a landward force Reserve component skills provision programme.
A Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) team of crop science specialists presented a month-long training course for 50 plus people, in collaboration with the provincial departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Social Development. Twelve Reserve Force soldiers were on the programme along with 40 civilians from the surrounding area.
SA Air Force (SAAF) Reserve officer Major SSA Ngwenya writes in the latest edition of The Reserve Force Volunteer that the annual food budget of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) “places it in an opportune position to contribute to transforming the agricultural sector for the meaningful benefit of rural communities, small-scale farmers and emerging suppliers of food”. Markets for their fresh produce are the SAAF, SA Army, SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) and SA Navy (SAN).
“Researchers recognise lack of market access is the bane of small rural farmers, with many forced into exploitative exchange arrangements for selling surplus produce.
“The Marievale military agri-village project is a training institute in incubation aimed at effectively and successfully facilitating the Department of Defence (DoD) contribution to the developmental agenda of government. This aims specifically to provide military veterans, pensioners and especially members of the Reserves with access to training in agriculture so as to be self-reliant and economically active beyond call-up.
“Marievale is a production centre with potential to access economic opportunities from the DoD’s local procurement budget. In this regard, a particular objective of the project is to assist the military footprint, particularly in rural and semi-rural areas, with access to decentralised procurement initiatives facilitated by the DoD, embedding military units into local economies – by providing them with economic opportunities.”
The course aimed at stimulating and developing a mindset around agriculture among part-time soldiers and the immediate communities around the base to promote successful and sustainable enterprises. It took the form of both classroom and hands-on work including crop monitoring, use of chemicals and fertilisers and the “basic building blocks of farming”.
Ngwenya sees Marievale Military Base providing a firm foundation for Project Koba-Tlala’s aims to be “implemented by skilled personnel who in turn will contribute significantly toward unlocking markets for the SANDF Reserve Force, military veterans, spouses of military personnel and smallholder farmers”.
“All this will without doubt facilitate creation of jobs and growth of local economies.”