Answering the call of the land

Award-winning emerging farmers show that South Africa has what it takes

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Solomon Masango, Vivian Gosekwang Pico and Matthews Senokwane were recently awarded SAB’s “Maize Farmer of the Year”, “Emerging Female Farmer of the Year” and “Emerging Barley Farmer Award” respectively by SAB during an annual agricultural event held in Caledon. The awards recognised their contribution to supply the brewing giant with local ingredients to produce its beers. Currently SAB sources 97% of its ingredients locally.

From dynamite to maize

Solomon Masango tried his hand at a number of jobs before settling for farming.

For the past nine years he has leased land in Mpumalanga from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, planting maize and soya beans.

He receives agricultural support services from FarmSol, which was set up by SAB specifically for the task of supporting emerging farmers with zero-interest bearing loans, and helps with procurement, mechanisation and advice while also entering into guaranteed offtake agreements which ensure a reliable income.

But farming was far from his first career. Solomon’s first job was as a driver at a mining company in Johannesburg, working his way up to earning his mining and then blasting tickets, where he later was promoted to field services manager and then into management.

After desiring to be his own boss, he moved back to Mpumalanga and became the owner of a fleet of school buses, but soon felt that farming was his calling. He left his business and started to farm with a scant R500 000 behind him. “My first venture was cattle farming, but it’s a hard gig, and I switched over to crops.” His 50 hectares of land yielded a crop of maize.

Taking advantage of courses offered by FarmSol, he learned more about crop rotation, which is why he also plants soya beans.

In 2018, Solomon planted his first crop alongside Farmsol and delivered 636,73 tonnes of maize at a yield of 6,37.

In 2015 he won farmer of the year in the Grain SA New Commercial Farmer of the Year awards.

With his family backing him, and his oldest son at Buhle Agricultural College, the family looks set to continue the farming tradition Masango has started.

He has created six jobs, and is a contented man, from dynamite to maize, his future is bright.

No longer out to pasture

It’s not every day that a woman takes on a farm upon retirement, but Vivian Gosekwang Pico did just that, and has been awarded the 2019 SAB & AB InBev Africa award as best emerging female farmer for her efforts.

Vivian worked at the Taung Agricultural College in the dairy section, until she reached pensionable age, and then she took on her second career farming barley, maize, and groundnuts when her husband, Mosieleng Herberg Pico, took ill.

While her husband still assists when he can, Vivien essentially manages and farms the 10-hectare farm on her own and has done since 2008 on the farm they lease from the chief in Taung in the North West Province. “My father-in-law farmed the land before my husband and I took it over, meaning farming runs in the family,” she said.

Mentored by FarmSol, she supplies SAB with barley and maize, delivering 91-tonnes of barley last season, and has received advice and mentorship from the brewer, the most valuable advice of which has been financial advice.

For this indomitable women farmer,

the working day starts at 05h00 and ends 12 hours later. “It makes me happy to be able share the fruits of my labour with my family,” she says.

Vivian believes she was called by God to take on this work, and does it faithfully and with joy, hoping that her eldest son will one day take over the farm.

Vivian has worked out other ways to extend her income and the farms’ influence, she owns tractors and plows and contracts to assist other farmers in the area with transporting their crops to the silo at harvest time.

With her fields filled with barley and maize, she also plants pumpkin and wheat.

Vivian is proof that retirement does not mean stopping working, and she has grabbed the challenge with both hands, looking at ways to improve her knowledge and share it with others.

A family affair

Matthews Senokwane’s love of farming goes back to his childhood. He was raised by a farmer, his father, and developed a life-long love for the land. After his father passed away, Matthews inherited the farm, and began developing it using the knowledge he had grown up with. Farming is a passion for Matthews and he looks forward to growing his farm.

The award has motivated him to work the “extra mile” to make his dream a reality. For 21 years Senokwane has farmed barley, maize, and ground nuts (peanuts). His crops for SAB are barley and maize, which he has supplied for 18 years. It’s an ongoing journey for Matthews, who owns 10 hectares and leases 30 hectares. His operation is assisted by loans from FarmSol. He pays back the loans after harvesting his crops, of which SAB receives 211 tons of barley.

Farming is a seasonal activity. In winter the barley crop is the focus, while in summer maize is the main crop. “There is no slow season on a farm, there is always something to be done,” Senokwane says.

“SAB has assisted by training me on how to grow barley and on soil preparation.”

His love of farming comes from the truth that if there is no farming there is no life.

At the moment Senokwane hires machinery and would like to be able to take a loan from Farmsol, or SAB to buy machinery.

In his spare time, he goes to church, plays soccer, and is a big fan of Kaizer Chiefs Football Club.

The family work with alongside him, meaning the farm is a family affair.

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