Monsanto is built on Improving lives - a foundation of business and inclusive growth principles. Our approach to improving the lives of individuals, communities and small-holder and emerging farmers began more than 20 years ago with investments towards inputs, training and development and grants.
Today, Monsanto has a dedicated Empowerment Programme - "Imbewu" focusing on enterprise and supplier development, skills development and socio-economic activities. The ultimate goal is to improve lives by:
- Promoting sustainable development
- Decreasing the dependance of donor funding
- To inspire others to do the same
Sowing seeds of success
Imbewu is the Zulu word for seed. A seed that can be minutely small to begin with, but locked inside is the potential to develop and grow in something much bigger.
Imbewu is also the umbrella name under which Monsanto SA do their upliftment and empowerment projects. Parusha Pillay (Monsanto SA’s B-BBEE and Transformation Manager) proudly said, “We’re seeding growth, we’re seeding successful business leaders, and we’re seeding potential in people; the potential to become and do better.”
The Imbewu projets are divided into three categories – skills development, enterprise/ supplier development and socio-economic development.
The skills development division includes scholarships, bursaries and internship programmes. Grade 12 learners and tertiary students who are particuliarly interested in a career in agriculture can apply for these financial aids. Monsanto personnel also regularly conduct talks and information sessions at schools and universities to plant the seed of agricultural careers in the minds of the youth,
Buhle Farmer’s Academy (BFA), Grain SA’s “Subsistence to Abundance” project and Mobile Agri Skills Development & Training (MASDT) are the projects counting under Imbewu’s enterprise and supplier development grouping.
The partnership between Monsanto and Buhle Farmer’s Academy goes way back to 2000 when Monsanto donated a research farm near Delmas as well as the start-up capital that was needed to start the academy.Buhle trains new and aspiring farmers from all over the country on how to operate a lucrative and sustainable farming enterprise. Students are trained in the technical-, production-, managerial, financial and marketing fields.
Buhle Farmers Academy's CEO Neil de Smidt said, "Thank you Monsanto for all you have done over so many years in the development arena through Buhle and others. You gave the oppurtunity to people who previously went to bed without food, to become providers for their families, people who previously earned very little if anything from their farming enterprises to farmers with lucrative enterprises and with your help subsistence farmers become semi-commercial farmers."
Neil continued, "We wish you well in using the investments that will be made into new development projects arising from Imbevu. We know that it will make a huge difference in the lives of many."
Monsanto was also there when Grain SAstarted their "Subsistence to Abundance"project. The name of this project says it all and the responsibillity to bring the name to function lies mostly on the farmers. in order to take part in this project, farmers are required to make a financial contribution, have access to at least 1ha of arable land, be a member of the grain SA study group, complete the basic course on maize production and be in possetion of a recent soil sample.
This project is managed by Jane Mcpherson of Grain SA in collaboration and partnerships with Monsanto, Kynoch, The Sasol Trust, SA Lime and Cypsum, Syngenta and the Department of Finance via it's Jobs Fund - project. Monsanto's contribution includes the financing of some of the mentors involved in the project and providing smallscale farmers access to the latest and best seed technologies available. Monsanto donates over a million Rand's worth of seed annually towards the worthy project.
Kobus Steenekamp, Managing Director Monsanto SA, explains Monsanto’s reasoning behind their involvement in the project, “ It is a huge honour and privelege for Monsanto to play our part in this project. “Subsistence to Abundance” has the ability to change lives and it is wonderful for us to play our part in transforming the lives of these farmers. To hear Mavis Hlatshwayo, one of the beneficiaries elaborating on how the project changed the lives of the Hereford community is priceless. For these people going to bed hungry was a reality. The “Subsistence to Abundance” project helped them to increase their yields to such an extent that they now have the ability to feed their families, provide for the less fortunate and sell the excess.
Monsanto SA also drives their own projects under the Imbewu enterprise and supplier development grouping. The company donates farm equipment to smallholder farmers. The equipment is still in good working condition, just not being utilized by Monsanto. Another is the Monsanto Grower Programme – aiming to develop previously disadvantaged farmers into becoming viable, sustainable seed grower businesses that can ultimately become part of the Monsanto value chain.
The Seed Re-packing Programme provides the opportunity to individuals to start their own viable and sustainable small packaging businesses and at the same time also be an integral component in the Monsanto value chain. With the Farmer Development Programme, Monsanto aims to equip farmers with the business management skills crucial for farming successfully.
The socio-economic development programme grouping comprises of a variety of projects aiming to develop and support communities. Focus areas include education and awareness, food access and nutrition, security, human rights and awareness.
The Monsanto Woman’s days are annual events with the main purpose of spoiling the farmer’s wives. With these days Monsanto not only thank the woman folk behind the farmers for their continuous and loyal support, it also provides the opportunity for the ladies to become involved in a special Woman’s Day community project. Through the years the ladies opened their hearts and purses and blankets, stationary and personal hygiene products were collected. Last year, it was decided to collect money in aid of a needy agriculture student. This project will continue and the aim is to keep assisting the student until he’ll be able to write doctor behind his name.
The focus of Monsanto’s human rights programme is on access to water and improved living conditions. Personnel volunteer individually to take part in feeding schemes and other worthy projects but on Mandela Day everybody takes hands and an extensive action is launched. On this day Monsanto people open their hearts for the communities in which they live and work.
The Imbewu model is based on three continuous themes in line with Monsanto’s broader objectives. The first is to empower communities with a sense of self-worth, making it possible for them to eventually make their own decisions regarding their own futures. The second is to promote sustainability and discourage dependence on sponsor funding. Lastly, but by no means less important, is to develop role models that can stand out as examples in their communities. People that can inspire and encourage the people around them to become the best they can ever be.
Kobus Steenekamp explains why transformation is so important for the company, “People working for Monsanto is passionate about their work. Young people apply for internships at our company to be part of a team that really makes a difference in the lives of others.”
“Hearing how the projects we are involved in actually changed people’s lives for the better, is wonderful. No money in the world can pay for that feeling!” according Steenekamp.