2016 Year In Review

2016 was an extremely busy year for SACAU.   Below is a summary of some of the things the organisation got up to:


We kicked off 2016 at the World Economic Forum’s 46th Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, where SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga had the opportunity of addressing delegates in attendance and pushed for greater global attention for the world’s farmers – smallholder farmers in particular.


Mr Sunga highlighted the importance of farmers mastering new technologies the world has to offer and added that it’s also the duty of farmers’ organisations to develop digital technological capabilities in order for them to continue to remain relevant to farmers.

Mr Sunga concluded his address by encouraging smallholder farmers to harness the potential of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs).


Foreign Affairs, a magazine published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) released a special edition anthology in February and published SACAU CEO, Ishmael Sunga’s article titled ‘Organising for the Future: Overcoming Fragmentation with Digital Technology’ in their first addition.  The article discussed the scope and potential of digital technology for farmers and farmers’ organisations.

Mr Sunga’s article was published alongside the articles of world renowned leaders such as Bill Gates (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Dr Akinwumi Adesina (President, African Development Bank) and Kofi Annan (former Secretary General of the United Nations).


The SACAU CEO headed to Oslo in Norway where he joined other global leaders for the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) ‘Food Security week’ from 7th-10th March.

The objective of the gathering was to firmly put food security back on the Norwegian international cooperation agenda.    Mr Sunga spoke on ‘Transforming Agriculture for a Food Secure Future’ and ‘Rural Development – A Farmer Driven Development Agenda?’

While in NORAD, Mr Sunga met the CEO of NORAD as well as the head and deputy head of the civil society department that is responsible for handling funding support to SACAU.   THE CEO of SACAU also met the Norwegian Farmers Union later in the week.

SACAU members from 12 SADC countries responded to an urgent call to participate in a survey on the impact of the drought in the region to help the confederation plan a way forward.

Dr Manyewu Mutamba, former Analyst for Economics and Policy at SACAU, advised that the survey covered 12 countries in which SACAU has members as well as commodity platform members.  The results of the survey were critical in calling for a co-ordinated regional response which is important in tackling challenges to galvanise long term solutions, investments and strategies for disaster preparedness in the future.


April was an exciting month for SACAU.  The organisation officially opened its new office in Centurion, Pretoria.


 SACAU’s new office building was opened by the current president, Dr Theo de Jager, in the presence of the organisation’s past three presidents, Mr Ajay Vashee, Mr Douglas Taylor-Freeme and the Honourable, Felix Jumbe and members.

This took place during a member consultative meeting in which the challenges faced by organisations were discussed. Issues to transform agriculture were also explored.


Dr Theo de Jager was re-elected as Chairman of the Board of Directors of SACAU at its AGM which was held on 26th May 2016 in Ezulwini, Swaziland. Dr de Jager was first elected in this position in 2013 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  The AGM was preceded by the annual conference and the Young Farmers’ Forum.

SACAU’s 2016 Annual Conference was themed ‘Youth, Technology and Agricultural Transformation.’ The conference is regarded as one of the biggest conferences hosted by SACAU and everyone was encouraged to cease the moment and take advantage of the vibrancy and energies of the youth to make the sector grow. The youth’s participation is vital to the transformation and progression of agriculture.

Our Young Farmers’ Forum consultation meeting was held in Swaziland.  The forum was established in 2014 and brings together young female and male farmers from each of SACAU’s members, providing them with an opportunity to network and share knowledge and experiences in their agricultural enterprises.


SACAU, in collaboration with We Effect, organised a three-day negotiations skills training for its members along with We Effect’s partners from 13th -15th July 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa.


 The primary aim of the training was to equip participants with the core negotiation skills and tools that will empower them to make a meaningful difference in the outcome of their negotiation endeavours upon their return to their areas of responsibility.

Participants gained valuable negotiating skills including identifying both their and the other party’s interests as well as when to walk away from a negotiation.


The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) concluded its supervision mission of the Support to Farmers’ Organisations in Africa Programme’s (SFOAP) main phase to the Southern African region on 24th August.

Its main phase of Support to Farmers’ Organisations in Africa Programme (SFOAP) is implemented by the five Regional Farmers’ Organisations (RFOs) in Africa, including SACAU.

The goal of the program is to improve the livelihoods and food security situation of African smallholder farmers and rural producers and its purpose is to enable Farmers’ Organisations (FOs) evolve into stable, well performing and accountable organisations that can effectively represent their members and advise farmers in their farming enterprises.

The mission expressed satisfaction with the progress and impact the programme has had in the region.


SACAU kicked off the process of establishing an agri-agency unit in September 2016.

From 19th to 23rd September, a team from Agriterra comprising Dr Kees Blokland, Mr Jan Breambroek and Mr Benito Eliasi of SACAU secretariat held consultations with the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) and Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) of Zimbabwe.

The two organisations pledged their support to SACAU as it is going through this process. They were also in support of skills exchange programmes among SACAU members and indicated that to a lesser extent, the concept is being applied in Zimbabwe.

The annual Southern African Cotton Producers Association (SACPA) meeting took place from 12th-14th September in Maputo.  The meeting was co-hosted by Forum Nacional dos Productores de Algodao (FONPA) as well as SACAU development partner, We Effect.

The meeting explored methods applied to the formulation of pricing in addition to receiving country updates from members and learning about the development of the cotton sector in Mozambique.


Three young agri-preneurs from SACAU participated in the Pan African Agribusiness Incubators Conference and Expo that was held in the capital city of Ghana, Accra, from 4th to 6th October. The conference, themed “turning science into business – inclusive agribusiness incubation for vibrant economies in Africa” exposed young farmers to different technologies and innovations that are likely going to change the landscape of agriculture in Africa.

The three young agri-entrepreneurs from SACAU who participated are Ms. Manes Nkhata from Malawi, Mr. Sibusiso Gule from Swaziland and Ms Magdalene Shirima from Tanzania. They were accompanied by Mr. Benito Eliasi from the SACAU secretariat.

Well done. We are proud of you.


SACAU and Access to Seeds Foundation (ATSF) hosted an Access to Seeds Index workshop on 28th-29th November in Johannesburg, South Africa.


SACAU and Access to Seeds Foundation (ATSF) hosted an Access to Seeds Index workshop on 28th-29th November in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The two-day workshop was attended by some of the member organisations from the SADC region.

During the workshop, lack of access to information, high costs of seeds and lack of seed laws were identified as some of the issues affecting the access of good quality seeds by smallholder farmers.

SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga advised that “Access to this seed at the right time, at the right cost, at the right place and with the right quality is one of the key drivers of productivity.” SACAU joined partners to discuss African agriculture at the COP22 meeting in Morocco from 7th-18th November.

Mr Sunga was part of a panel discussion addressing the “Implementation of regional climate smart agriculture approaches: the case of East & Southern Africa” at a side event on 16th November.

The session looked at barriers preventing smallholder farmers from improving their livelihood in the face of negative climate change impact.


The month started off with an organisational assessment workshop facilitated by one of our longest-standing partners, We Effect. These are carried out every two years, with this being the fourth, and involving both the Board and Secretariat staff. This exercise provided an understanding of the Board and staff’s perception of the performance of the organisation, and identified actions that could be taken to address weaknesses. These action points will be followed up in the new year to ensure that we continue to improve carrying out our mandate. A Board meeting followed this event to close off the year.

SACAU also participated at a workshop that discussed research and innovation for an interdisciplinary Big Data App for healthy wheat and maize crops that will boost the productivity and income of farmers in selected regions in Asia and Africa. This event which was organised by CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences of the University of Copenhagen took place in Copenhagen, Denmark on 7th December 2016. SACAU’s initiative on data was shared with delegates.

Finally, as part of the process of the establishment of an agri-agency unit, the organisation attended Agriterra’s 2016 Crash Course and Agriterra/Acodea Year Summit from 5th to 16th December 2016 in the Netherlands. Participation in these events helped increased SACAU’s appreciation of Agriterra, more specifically their history and approaches in agricultural development. Other highlights of this were how Dutch agriculture evolved over the years and the role of the cooperatives in this process, a feature which still prominently features in the country’s agriculture.