PONTSENG MONNANE, office administrator: Grain SA
The saying: ‘It isn’t the farm that makes the farmer, it is the love, hard work and character’, will once again be evident when Grain SA hosts the annual Day of Celebration on 22 September 2016 in Bloemfontein.
At this event Grain SA will acknowledge the success of our developing farmers with the Farmer of the Year competition. This competition consists of three categories, which creates a platform for all types of farmers to compete fairly.
The three categories are:
- The Subsistence Farmer of the Year (farming on 0 – 10 hectares).
- The Smallholder Farmer of the Year (farming on anything from 10 hectares, but producing less than 250 tons of grain).
- The New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year (producing more than 250 tons of grain).
Meet this year’s Smallholder Farmer finalists
Thembelihle Tobo was born on 12 December 1963. He started school at Ndunge Junior Secondary School, and then proceeded to Ngalonkulu High School where he obtained his matric in 1983. Currently he is registered at the University of South Africa, doing his BA degree in Criminology. Thembelihle and his wife, Nolundi, got married in 1992 and together they have six children.
In 1986 Thembelihle joined the military and attained his captain’s rank. He left the military in 1996 and started Delta Electrical – which is a contracting business. He developed an interest in farming in his early years and started farming with maize and livestock in 1996.
Currently he is the chairperson of the Ndunge Study Group and most of the study group meetings are held at his homestead. Thembelihle has attended various training courses with Grain SA and lends a hand at agricultural activities within the community. Furthermore, he is responsible for organising meetings for study group members and conducting farmers days. Maintenance of trials is also one of his responsibilities.
He faces challenges such as a lack of infrastructure and also believes that the chiefs’ land is not organised the way it is supposed to – to ensure that farming is taken forward. The biggest challenge for him, though, is the availability of land, but Thembelihle believes that if the Bizana farmers can work together so that their region can be seen or recognised as the breadbasket of South Africa. He believes that he is going to reduce poverty through agricultural activities.
Hamu Samson Shuwisa was born on Eendjie Scheepers’ farm, Goedehoop, in the Sheepmoor area. He married Elizabeth in 1970 and they were blessed with seven children. He worked on a farm for 50 years before he moved to the Nooitgedacht farm near Sheepmoor. Hamu attended Mabuzi Primary School, where he completed Grade 1.
As a young boy he started to work on a farm to help support his parents. He became the head boy on the farm and had to look after the cattle and sheep. He soon became the tractor driver and later became the truck driver for his employer and was responsible for deliveries at destinations he had only heard of before. He always had an interest in farming – and especially in the soil – which started when helping his father to plough. At a young age he bought his first cow and today he is the proud owner of 120 cattle.
He believes it is much better to be involved in agriculture than to work in the city. His breakthrough in agriculture was in 2009 when he decided to plant not only for himself, but also to sell the extra maize. He has been part of Grain SA since 2011 and has attended various training courses and has also been the chairman of the Grain SA Study Group for the past seven years. He is eager to apply his knowledge to help other farmers in the area to plant their fields.
His biggest challenges are finances and the problem of transporting his maize over a long distance to a silo at Overvaal, but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming. Hamu wants to grow his business and plant more than 100 hectares in the near future – he started by planting 1 ha and grew it to plant 18 ha using his own funds.
Sizwe Innocent Ngwenya was born in 1985 in Wakkerstroom and grew up in Driefontein. In 2008 he married Lindiwe and together they have six children. He started his primary education in 1991 at Isibanisezwe Primary School and went on to complete his matric at Vukubone Secondary School in 2003.
From 2004 to 2007 he worked on his father’s farm as a general farm worker, where he did all the work on the farm. He also assisted his sister in the tuck-shop, which his father owned.
His interest in agriculture started at an early age as he was always helping his father on the farm. In 2008 his father decided to give him the 50 ha of arable land on which he is currently farming. Sizwe joined Grain SA in 2011 and is an active member of the Donkerhoek Study Group.
He is involved in various community projects and is currently the vice-chairperson of Kaluka CPA (a farm of which they are currently cultivating the fields).
Sizwe plans to improve his cropping system and to add more livestock in the future. Drought and the shortage of implements seem to be challenges for him, but he believes that he can overcome them.
Mzwayi, Delisile and Isaac in line for Subsistence Farmer of the Year award
Mzwayi David Zuma was born on 9 May 1950 and grew up in Estcourt in the area of Ehlathi Elikhulu kaMKhize. In 1976 he married Goodness Celiwe Meyiwa and they were blessed with nine children. Currently one of his daughters sells maize in Estcourt.
As a young boy, Mzwayi attended Mkhize Primary School in Estcourt, where he completed Standard 2 (now Grade 4). In 1970 Mzwayi started working as a gardener at a local school, and in 1984 he was promoted to assist with the paper work – in most of the cases making photocopies.
He was raised by both his mother and grandmother and almost everything they did involved agriculture. This is where his interest in agriculture stems from. After his mother and grandmother passed away, he carried on with their garden. In 2002 Mzwayi joined Grain SA.
In the near future Mzwayi would like to acquire a bigger farm. This way he will not be distressed when his livestock graze on the crops. He also wants his children to continue with what he started.
One of the challenges Mzwayi faces involve the fact that people crawl under the fence and steal his crops. Another challenge he faces is that the community does not keep their livestock out of his fields. Mzwayi believes that agriculture is life. We cannot do without it.
She has stayed on the farm all of her life. She started her primary education at Hlalisane Primary School when she was six years old and completed Standard 5 (now Grade 7). Unfortunately, she couldn’t attend high school due to circumstances at that particular time.
Delisile started working by helping her mother as a domestic worker when she was about 14 years old and she later started to work in the fields where she gained valuable agricultural experience. While growing up, she was mainly interested in maize production, as the producer her mom used to work for was a maize producer.
Before the Department of Agriculture bought them their current farm, she worked as a farm worker for four years. In 2012 she joined Grain SA and has since then attended study group meetings regularly. She teaches other farmers how to plant no-till maize and also helps them to use their chemicals correctly. Delisile also takes care of the community’s cattle on her farm.
A lack of equipment forces her to hire a contractor, which causes financial pressure. Delisile, though, looks past her challenges and says that she would love to start an irrigation system on their farm – the current system does not work because of the pipes being stolen. She would like to use the existing irrigation to plant maize and vegetables.
Isaac Mkhawuleni Hlatshwayo was born on 11 April 1954 at Blekeni near Piet Retief, where he grew up. He married Rinah Sizakele Nkosi in 1979 and they were blessed with eight children. Although he never attended school, he knew that he wanted to make something of his life.
He grew up in an agricultural community and also worked on a farm for many years, where he developed an interest in farming. When he was 20 years old he started working on a farm, where he stayed five years. Thereafter he went to Johannesburg and worked at a company called Clicks Engineering for twelve years. In 1995 he went back and started farming with beans and maize at Hereford. In 2004 Isaac joined Grain SA and has attended workshops, farmers days and training organised by the Farmer Development office ever since.
The drought and financial assistance have been big challenges for him, but Isaac is a church member and believes that everything will work out for the best in the near future. He wants to have his own farm, with his own farming equipment. Isaac believes that he will in future be able to assist other farmers with the challenges they face.
The New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year finalists are…
Maseli Augustinus Letuka was born in 1950 in Bethlehem, where he spent his entire childhood. On 22 July 1997 he tied the knot with Maleteam, who unfortunately passed away in 2010. Together, they had four children.
He completed his schooling in Bethlehem and furthered his studies at Tshiya College of Education. In 1997 he received his Senior Degree in Education at the University of the Free State, specialising in Leadership and Management. He worked for the Department of Education for 23 years and held different positions over the years. He resigned from the Department as headmaster in 1998.
Maseli never worked on a farm, but his passion for agriculture sparked his interest in this field. He started his farming journey with a few cattle, which he initially kept in his village yard. He later became a member of the communal grazing land in what was then known as QwaQwa (now Phuthaditjhaba).
After he resigned, he bought himself a piece of land (209 ha) from the Land Bank. Unfortunately he had to sell this land in 2008 because of an unpleasant partnership. From 2008 he has been leasing land from one area to another on a contractual basis.
He joined Grain SA and has since then attended farmers days, study group meetings and has also attended a few training courses organised by Grain SA, as well as a few presented by the University of the Free State. He is also involved in different community projects, which include amongst others being a founder member of the National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (NERPO), serving as a trustee of the Winter Cereal Trust, being the vice-chairperson of the newly established Grain Farmer Development Association (GFADA) and he is also a member of the executive committee of Grain SA.
Although he doesn’t have his own land that can serve as collateral should the need arise (for example, financing, mechanisation and a reasonable interest rate for input financing), Maseli would love to expand in terms of volumes, so as to become an international competitor.
Frans Tshepo Mokoena was born on a farm which was part of communal land, in the Thaba Nchu district, in the former Bophuthatswana. His father had three older children from a previous marriage and he was the only child from the second wife.
He is married to Agnes and they have two daughters. Frans attended school at Louwfontein near Thaba Nchu and had to walk over 25 km per day to attend school. He only completed Standard 4 (Grade 6) as there was no money to send him to another school for further schooling.
For all of his life, Frans has been involved in farming – as the child of a farm worker, farmer on his father’s farm and eventually on his own land. This is all he knows and all he ever wanted to do and still wants to do. On his father’s farm they cultivated maize and fodder for the dairy cattle and sold the milk in Thaba Nchu.
Frans grew up with the sounds and smells of a farm, knowing that life starts on a farm. He can still remember how he, as a very small boy, got up at 04:00 in the mornings to fetch the cows, milk them and take them to the field to graze, then he loaded the milk, which his dad sold in Thaba Nchu, onto an old Toyota pick-up. He and his siblings would then attend school, come back and feed the cattle, milk them and do other farm work. He was very young when he started to drive a tractor and plough the fields.
They never had a lot of money, but he never went to bed hungry – tired and sore feet maybe, but never hungry. His mother passed away in 2000 and he took over looking after her chickens. Unfortunately his father died in 2001 and all of a sudden he was responsible for the animals and the crops. He was 21 years old and alone. He carried on the way his father taught him – by only living with the basics. He therefore saved money and purchased more dairy cattle.
In 2006 Frans realised that he had outgrown the small farm and leased more communal land in Thaba Nchu. In 2006 he heard a broadcast on Lesedi FM of a Grain SA meeting that was to take place in Ladybrand. He went and joined the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme and started attending study group meetings, training courses and farmers days. Frans is a member of the Grain SA 500 Ton Club and the Ladybrand Study Group. He is also a member of NERPO and African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA). He has seven permanent workers who have attended training presented by Grain SA.
He faces challenges such as not having sustainable production capital, climate change and the high cost of inputs, but he believes in the future of farming in South Africa and is excited to be a part of it.
Zondiwe Paul Motshwene was born on 5 August 1949 in Boksburg and grew up in Middelburg. He got married to Florence in 1970 and they were blessed with five children, of which two unfortunately have passed away.
He started his primary education in 1956 and completed high school in 1966. He then started his training as a teacher at Botshabelo Training College. Zondiwe started his teaching career in 1970 in Middelburg and in 1973 he left teaching and started working as a training instructor at Eskom.
In 1975 he started working as a training officer for Hadgerand Still Company, which he left in 1982. He then started a new career with Cullinan Holdings as a public relations officer. In 1993 he bought a service station and in 2001 he bought a second service station, which is run by his daughter.
He started a piggery in 1995 – which is still in operation today. His interest in agriculture started as a hobby, but he then realised that he could actually make a living out of it by planting maize. Somehow it seems that agriculture is in his blood – his father was also a farmer.
In 2006 Zondiwe rented 115 ha arable land to plant feed for his pigs. In 2011 he rented another 124 ha arable land. He then joined Grain SA and in 2010 he became one of the advanced farmers.
His biggest challenges are the drought, marketing and storage. Zondiwe realises that challenges don’t last forever and in the future he would like to own his own farm rather than lease one and he would also love to help post-graduate students with inservice training.
Publication: September 2016
Section: Grain SA