A quality management framework for emerging maize farmers in selected provinces in South Africa
Ramogodi, Thabang Frans
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Agriculture, especially emerging farming, is critical for South Africa's economic future. For various reasons, including the lack of an emerging-farmer-specific quality management framework, most emerging farmers do not survive and seldom advance to become sustainable commercial farmers. The general research problem for this study was that even when many researchers have shown the value of quality management to many big organizations, there is still not enough research showing how small businesses, particularly emerging farmers, could leverage quality management to improve their overall businesses and profitability. The specific research problem was that there is no quality management framework for emerging maize farmers to help them improve the quality and quantity of maize to increase their overall business performance for sustainability. Therefore, this study aimed to develop a quality management framework for the farming industry, particularly emerging maize farmers. The first objective was to determine the critical factors involved in developing a quality management framework; the second objective was to assess the competency of emerging farmers on the critical factors affecting maize quality and grain quality standards by emerging maize farmers. The third objective was to assess the competency of emerging farmers in maize quality standards (grading), and the last objective was to determine grain quality processes currently in place to meet product quality standards. This study was based on two prominent theories of total quality management: the Juran trilogy and the Deming cycle. This inductive phenomenological qualitative study followed an interpretivist paradigm. The primary data collection instrument for this study was non-standardized, face-to-face, and semi-structured interviews conducted one-on-one while observing all Covid-19 prevention protocols. Seventeen participants were interviewed, comprising five industry experts and twelve emerging maize farmers. These semi-structured interviews were supplemented by reviewing relevant documents and observations during farm inspections. Data from the semi-structured interviews were analysed using thematic analysis techniques. Four preconceived themes emerged from the research data: quality management framework, quality affecting factors, quality grade takers, and quality inspections. The data from the interviews were triangulated with the document analysis and observations. The study's major findings were as follows: firstly, there is no quality management framework currently tailor-made for emerging farmers. All participants agree that there is a need to develop a quality management framework for emerging maize farmers. The framework must focus on finance, soil quality, maize hybrids, training, pests, climate change, farming practices, farming resources, planting dates, and weeds. Secondly, most emerging farmers understood how critical factors such as planting dates, seed quality, soil quality, insects, weeds, improper application of chemicals (pesticides and herbicides), improper fertiliser application, poor hygiene, and inappropriate moisture content could affect the quality of maize. However, the challenge was understanding fungi, mycotoxins, and pesticide residues, which have detrimental effects on humans and animals that consume contaminated maize. Thirdly, all emerging farmers who participated in this study are not competent in the grading process to determine the correct grade of maize. Even though most understood the importance of the grading process and how they could benefit from knowing how to grade maize, they were not knowledgeable on how to determine them. Fourthly, all twelve participants had inspection procedures to ensure that the maize quality was monitored regularly. They also had mitigation practices in the form of readily available individuals that they contacted for assistance if any anomalies were identified. This study contributes to the academic body of knowledge in developing a quality management framework for emerging maize farmers in the selected provinces of South Africa.