TOP FARMER is keen to help others

Louise Kunz, assistant editor, Pula Imvula
Published: 6 November 2023


William Setlaba Raphoto from Lichtenburg was announced as the 2023 PGP/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year. To this humble farmer the award is a huge honour and he is very grateful to PGP for their contribution to his success. ‘The award I received shows PGP that their effort was not in vain. It also shows people that PGP believes in the farmers.’

William is thankful that he can make a living through his passion. He believes that it is important to keep learning and continuously improve if you want to make a success of farming. He tries to keep track of the latest technology and is keen to enlarge his fleet of tractors and farm equipment.

This farming enterprise is a great example of succession farming with William following in his father’s footsteps. His two sons, Tlotliso (12) and Realeboha (7), are already showing a keen interest in farming. ‘They are the reason I have to get up when I face a challenge, so that they don’t get disheartened and lose their passion.’

One of the big challenges farmers have to face is climate change, but with help from PGP’s farmer development team William has learned how to adapt methods to continue producing successfully. In the 2022/2023 season, he planted 310 ha of white maize which realised a yield of between 4,5 t/ha and 5 t/ha. His 100 ha of soybeans achieved about 1,2 t/ha.

Mentorship has made the difference
William attributes his passion for farming to his late father, Rykie, who was an established farmer and a member of Grain SA. After completing a diploma in animal health from North-West University in 2003, William joined his father on the farm and gained a lot of experience in the process. He took over the farming operation in 2020 when his father passed away.

PGP has played a cardinal role through the years by teaching him better agricultural practices and how to deal with challenges. William regularly attends study group sessions and takes training seriously. ‘I also look at what other farmers are doing and if I see something I don’t know about, I ask. One can learn a lot from bigger commercial farmers.’

For William one of the best lessons he learned through his relationship with the farmer development team was to put money back into the farm and not spend it on things that do not boost the farming operation. This year he invested in another combine harvester, which is contracted. His prize as New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year, a brand-new John Deere 5075E utility tractor, will help to expand his tractor fleet.


What is the best thing about being a farmer?
Being able to be involved in ensuring food security and job creation in South Africa.

The most important lesson you have learned as a farmer?
I learned the value of longstanding relationships from my father – whether it is a mentor, chemical advisor or friends. I have three farmer friends with whom I am in regular contact. We get together regularly and communicate almost daily. We help each other sort out problems and challenges.


Farm: Lareystryd farm
Nearest town: Lichtenburg
Region: North West
Size: 210 ha of own land, rents 300 ha
Type: Mixed – crops (maize and soybeans) and livestock (Bonsmara and Simbra cattle, Ile de France sheep, Dorper sheep for meat, goats)


• Joined Grain SA in 2005
• Itsoseng study group
• Became a member of 500 Ton Club: 2023

Training courses completed:
Maize production; Introduction to sorghum production; Introduction to dry bean production; Farming for profits; Contractor’s course; Basic principles for engine repair; Maintenance for tractors and implements; Technical competence

A development manager’s view:
Du Toit van der Westhuizen, regional development manager in North West, says William’s passion is only partly responsible for his success. ‘He is really a hard worker who is keen to learn and improve. William also doesn’t let stumbling blocks discourage him, but tries to find solutions to problems. He is always there for fellow farmers who need guidance.’