Helping young farmers put down roots

Aim of Liza Lightfoot’s project is to provide knowledge, resources and techniques for beginners in agriculture

Liza Lightfoot is the CEO Kidlinks Small Farm incubator who provides gardening skills for unemployed youth.
Liza Lightfoot is the CEO Kidlinks Small Farm incubator who provides gardening skills for unemployed youth.
Image: SUPPLIED

Former landscape architect and president of Avant Gardening and Landscaping, Liza Lightfoot, established a charity organisation, Kidlinks Small Farm Incubator (KSFI) in 2004 which was initially motivated by the affect of HIV/Aids on children in SA and then expanded into grooming young farmers in the Eastern Cape.

“In 2004, with the help of several other expatriate South Africans in Madison, US, we established the charity organisation which was set up to address the needs of Aids orphans and vulnerable children in SA. 

“From there I met University of Wisconsin director of the Centre for Integrated Agriculture System, Dr Michael Bell, who was working with several colleagues in the Eastern Cape at the time,” she said.

Lightfoot said they formed a relationship about agro-ecological projects in the province with the help of Mpumelelo Ncwadi, who is the co-founder of KSFI.

“As the Kidlinks representative, my work is centred on school food gardens, where I organise the international students visiting SA from the US. 

“During these visits, we discussed how we could launch a permanent project to address the issue of youth unemployment, food security and climate change in the Eastern Cape,” she said.  

“Our training activities are mainly geared towards young aspiring farmers, teens in high school and local communities.” 

Lightfoot said they decided with her co-founders, Ncwadi and Asanda Apleni, in March 2020 to develop a business plan for the Kidlinks Small Farm Incubator, but were unsuccessful in procuring Lottery funding. They then managed to secure seed funds from American donors.

“The focus of KSFI was founded to chart a new course: provide aspiring beginning farmers with the knowledge, resources and techniques they need to start their regenerative organic and climate-smart agri-food businesses.”

She said the resources and information from KSFI provided young farmers with confidence to farm with crops and livestock, prepare business plans, build mutually beneficial relationships, market their products and manage their business.

“We teach these future farmers to think creatively and discover regenerative agriculture through learning by doing how to start and grow right-size profitable agribusinesses.”

Lightfoot works with four students from Eastern Cape agricultural colleges and several local community volunteers in developing the training course they will offer to future students.

“Our land-based farmer education and enterprise development programmes include on-farm apprenticeships, mentorships and short-term workshops.

“We provide farmers who lack the high-end tool and resources of their larger competitors’ access to technology that empowers them and helps them to grow.”

She said their long-range vision for KSFI was to develop the organisation to be a scalable model that could  be replicated elsewhere. 

“We are working to develop a 12-month curriculum for new students. In addition, we will offer short courses to home gardeners and existing organic farmers.

“Our mission is to enable South African youth to farm for abundance and prosperity,” she said.

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