Use the KNOWLEDGE you acquire to improve

Published: 3 May 2024

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While the young Kopano Lentswetshipi (35) from North West dreams of becoming a fully fledged commercial farmer, he is working hard to gain as much knowledge as possible about farming. He realises that being a skilled and knowledgeable farmer will help him reach his long-term goal. To Kopano, the most important aspect to become a successful farmer is to continually gain knowledge. ‘You will never know everything, but when you learn something, you must put it into practice otherwise the knowledge is wasted.’

This season has been a particularly difficult one as North West was severely impacted by the drought and heatwaves. Where the Lentswetshipi team harvested 5 t/ha of maize last season, Kopano expects a yield of no more than 1,5 t/ha this season. He also doubts whether they will come near the previous sunflower yield of 1,1 t/ha.

After completing his schooling, Kopano became his father’s partner. Kopano has great admiration for his father, Ezekiel, who introduced him to farming when he was just a young boy. ‘He taught me the basics of farming as I worked alongside him on the farm.’ The father and son duo has been working side by side since 2009, sharing responsibilities as well as all the ups and downs each new season presents. Kopano loves working with his father and says being part of this family business makes him extremely happy. He also hopes that both his sons will develop a keen interest in farming as they follow their father and grandfather around the farm.

The Farmer Development Programme has played a huge role in Kopano’s development as a farmer. Through study group sessions, courses and training, he has gained a wealth of knowledge which has been employed to improve his production. ‘Phahama Grain Phakama (PGP) has helped us a lot to improve the standard of our crops. Du Toit van der Westhuizen is a wonderful mentor who is very involved in our farming business. He taught us the importance of doing things properly.’ To Kopano, the most valuable practice he has learned is soil sampling. ‘Healthy soil means a healthy crop.’

Apart from his father and the Farmer Development team, the 2018 New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year, Vuyani Lolwane, played a huge role in Kopano’s farming career. ‘He used to tell me that I should not try to farm alone, but join hands with my father. It was very good advice.’ Vuyani also encouraged Kopano to join Grain SA. Sadly, Vuyani passed away due to Covid 19 complications in 2022 and his mentorship is missed by many farmers in the area.

KOPANO’S STORY

Tell us more about your business
I decided to establish a business called Thusano Excellency, as I would like to work abroad as well. It was only created last year, so there is still a long way to go. Through PGP study groups we’ve learned how important succession planning is and that is why I established the business. We also learned what the benefits of a separate entity are and that it can help a lot when one wants to buy land.

Has this challenging season reduced your farming passion?
No, not at all – it is part of being a farmer. The drought and heat have been very difficult and now it looks as if we have to fight Sclerotinia in our sunflower crops. Challenges help one to make plans and to develop.

FARM FACTS

Farm: Communal land in Weltevrede village
Nearest town: Lichtenburg
Region: North West
Size: Plants on 530 ha
Type: Mixed – crops (maize and sunflower) and livestock (cattle, sheep and goats)

PGP’S CONTRIBUTION

  • Joined Grain SA in 2019
  • Attends Mooifontein study group
  • Member of 250 Ton Club: 2023

Training courses completed:
Kopano has completed several courses, including:

  • Introduction courses in maize and sunflower production
  • Basic maize production
  • Advanced courses in maize and sunflower production and marketing
  • Maintenance: tractors and farm implements
  • On-farm maintenance and support: tractors and implements

A mentor’s view:
Du Toit van der Westhuizen, regional development manager in North West, has been mentoring Kopano since 2019 and says that he always listens to the advice and guidelines offered. ‛Kopano is dedicated and loyal to both his own business and the industry. He tries his very best to apply what he learned.’