Knowledge leads to success

Published: 12 April 2024

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Although the farm Welgevonden in the Carolina district in Mpumalanga belongs to Joseph Shabangu, it is his brother Simon Shabangu (53) who is the crop farmer. The brothers work in a profit-share structure where Simon is in charge of crop production, but also shares in the profits of the other businesses – cattle, sheep, goats and chickens. Joseph works in transportation in Witbank and tends to the livestock side of the farming enterprise. Any profit made in the livestock branch is ploughed back into the crop production side.

Simon is grateful to the Phahama Grain Phakama (PGP) team for everything he has learned through the Farmer Development Programme. ‘I learned everything I know from the programme – everything I do, from soil correction to harvesting, is as a result of the training and practical sessions and the sharing of knowledge during farm visits. This walking-beside-me mentorship made me a farmer.’

To him, the theory and practical knowledge that are shared during training and study group sessions go hand in hand and help farmers to understand better. ‘Theory and practical knowledge are needed. As the knowledge came, the understanding came – and then came the success.’ This is probably why Simon was a nominee in the 2023 Potential Commercial Farmer category of PGP’s Farmer of the Year competition.

Simon has a rotational planting system on the 140 ha of arable land. This year he planted 40 ha of soybeans and 60 ha of maize. Unfortunately, he suffered a big loss as a result of drought with another 40 ha of maize which were planted at an earlier planting date. Last season he realised a yield of 7 t/ha on maize and – depending on the field where the crop was planted – between 1,5 and 2 t/ha on the soybeans. However, he is not very positive about this season’s crops as the plants suffered due to the drought conditions. ‘My crops are not looking so good this year. It has been a very dry season, a very stressful time for me and the plants!’

He is passionate about farming and farming practices. ‘There is no other job like farming, because a farmer gets something back for his hard work.’

SIMON’S STORY

What is important for crop production?
The most important thing is soil correction which you can only do through soil sampling. The roots have to be able to reach the deeper layers where the moisture and nutrients are. Secondly, you get out what you put in, so if you don’t feed your plants with the necessary fertiliser and nitrogen, the crop won’t develop into healthy plants. Thirdly, for a healthy crop, you need to control weeds, pests and diseases. Without a healthy crop, you won’t realise a good yield.

What has contributed to your success?
The things that have made me successful are the things I learned in the hard times – to trust God and to diversify. We invested in livestock – cattle, sheep, and goats – and added chickens as another source of generating extra income. In the difficult times, the cattle carried us through and provided the funds necessary to plant the following season. Without diversity there would have been no success. A farmer needs to trust in God because He makes things grow and gives us success.

What is your farming dream?
I want to leave a legacy for my children that their father contributed to food security.

FARM FACT

Farm: Welgevonden farm
Nearest town: Carolina
Region: Mpumalanga
Size: 1 000 ha: plants 140 ha, the rest is used for grazing
Type: Mixed – plants maize and soybeans and has a Bonsmara herd which is sold at auction. Also owns sheep, goats, and chickens.

PGP’S CONTRIBUTION

  • Joined Grain SA: 2012
  • Study group – chairman of Carolina study group

Training courses completed:
Has completed several courses including the following:

  • Introduction to maize production
  • Introduction to soybean production
  • Business ethics and farm management
  • Maintenance on tractors and farm implements
  • Farming for profit

A mentor’s view:
Timon Filter, PGP mentor and trainer, says Simon is someone who always walks the extra mile for the farmers in his study group and anyone in need. ‘This is probably why he has been the study group chairperson for many years.’