At the 2023 Phahama Grain Phakama (PGP) Day of Celebration, Zoliwe Nombewu (46) was announced as a finalist in the PGP Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year category. ‘You must adopt farming – it must be part of you who are,’ she said in a video interview which was shown at this award ceremony.
Zoliwe was raised in a farming environment. Although her parents became farmers out of necessity, farming became her passion. Growing up there were not many jobs available in the area and for her parents farming became a means to support the family. Little did they realise that this decision would play a role in their daughter becoming a very successful farmer. Apart from being a finalist in the PGP competition, Zoliwe received a certificate of excellence in 2021 from the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR) as the Agriculture Female Entrepreneur Award winner.
She began farming in the early 2000s and really started growing as a farmer in 2009 after her husband, Daliwonga, joined Grain SA. They farm together and Daliwonga has been a source of inspiration and motivation in her farming career. Zoliwe is extremely grateful to PGP for all the knowledge imparted to her and for the agricultural skills they have developed in her. ‘PGP showed me that farming is a business and that I can survive without being employed.’
When the Nombewus began farming, it was on Daliwonga’s 4-ha piece of land. At that stage a yield of 1,5 t/ha was considered a good yield. Then Grain SA came onto the scene and showed them what could be achieved with better agricultural practices. Last season Zoliwe realised a yield of 5,5 t/ha with her maize.
Apart from the 300 ha of maize, Zoliwe also plants 2 ha of soybeans and 2 ha of potatoes in the summer. ‘I don’t plant vegetables during winter because I do not have access to water for them.’
What factors contribute to your success?
For me farming is not just a way to earn an income, it is a lifestyle. I strongly believe that if you love what you do, you will make a success of it. Being passionate about farming helps me to stay focused on my dreams and to keep improving my production practices to move closer towards my goal of becoming a commercial farmer.
Which course has added the biggest impact to your operation?
I did a marketing course about four years ago. Marketing is one of the most important aspects of farming. The knowledge about how to market my produce has really been helpful. It taught me how to make profit, to look at my expenditure, to know where I am losing money and where I am making profit. It also helped me to know when to mark down my price when the quality of maize is not so good.
What would you like to achieve in the next five years?
I want to achieve my goal of being a successful farmer and see my maize production increase from 10 t/ha to 12 t/ha to increase my profit. I want to be able to make my own feed for my livestock so that I don’t have to buy any maize during the year.
Farm: Communal land in the Madwaleni administrative area
Nearest town: Tsolo
Region: Eastern Cape
Size: Plants 300 ha of maize
Type: Mixed – plants maize, grows vegetables and owns cattle and sheep for meat and wool production
Yield: 5,5 t/ha
• Joined PGP in 2014
• Chairperson of Sophumelela study group
Training courses completed:
Has completed several courses including:
• Introduction to maize production
• Maize marketing
A mentor’s view:
Eric Wiggill, PGP mentor in the Eastern Cape, says Zoliwe is a hard-working farmer who is always keen to learn. She has a passion for farming and is determined to succeed.