by Jenny Mathews

Developing the rural farmer

Another story of Grain SA's successful plans to assist the developing farmer

Joseph Mbaba is one of the successful developing farmers
Mbaba by his planter.jpg

The desire to farm was so strong he eventually took the plunge and decided to rent communal lands for himself between Kaalpan, Gelukspan and Springbokpan in North West province which he farmed until 2007.

In September 2008 Mbaba’s dreams came true when he became the beneficiary of a cropping farm, Schoongezicht, in the province through the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy or Plas. At last he would be doing what he loved and at the same time build a future for his family on his own farm. Unfortunately what happened over the next few years was not to be dreams coming true but a nightmare.

It is one thing to get your own land but quite another to find the money necessary to farm sustainably.

Joseph was then nominated by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to become a beneficiary of the 2012 – 2013 ‘recapitalisation programme’ which has been managed by their strategic partner, Grain SA.

This development has put the smile back on Mbaba’s face and he is excited by the changes which have occurred on his farm this past season.

The Grain SA team paid a visit to the farm and assessed what was needed to ensure the farm could be put into full production.

A budget was presented to DRDLR for their approval. The budget has been managed so carefully that every cent can be accounted for and every cent spent from Mbaba’s budget was the result of a decision made by himself on advice from his mentor, John Mathews. Mbaba chose which new tractors he wanted to use on the farm to plant his maize and sunflower crops.

I visited the farm earlier this year with Mbaba’s mentor and he told me that for the past four years he has found the planting season so stressful that he became sick and had to go to the doctor.

It is very frustrating to be given an opportu- nity on a farm – but farming as a business is so much more, and so much finance is needed to farm properly.

Farming is not a career if you are not prepared to work hard or if you are not prepared to learn something new every season.

Mbaba has proven to be a true farmer at heart who is dedicated and committed to work hard to reach for his dreams.

With hope renewed he has been eager to learn more about all aspects of farming as a business and has attended the training courses run by Grain SA throughout the season. The team has trained him and other farmers in the recapitalisation programme on many aspects of farming like tractor maintenance, calibration of planters and sprays, introduction to maize and sunflower culti- vation as well as providing assistance with the business management aspects of the business such as opening bank accounts and linking them with bookkeepers.

To assist in the process Grain SA has linked each farmer up with a mentor in his area who knows about farming in the same conditions.

Mathews has been farming for 33 years and is Mbaba’s mentor.

He cannot praise his protégé’s work ethic enough. During this last summer, farmers witnessed one of the worst droughts in 30 years.

The Grain SA team paid a visit to the farm and assessed what was needed to ensure the farm could be put into full production.

Every stage of the season was difficult as we looked to the skies hoping to spot gathering clouds which would promise to bring us the relief of rain.

The rains started late and were very erratic so there were only a few planting days in the season as the moisture dried out so rapidly under the hot sun. The pressure was on and having the right equipment and knowing how to work it properly for top performance was essential.

Thanks to Mbaba’s work ethic, the recap- italisation budget and the dedicated team of Grain SA, this could happen on Schoongezicht this year.

Mbaba has a keen awareness of the pressures involved in getting the job done on time and he always responds positively when it is pointed out that time is of the essence and operations need to be done urgently.

The crops were stressed throughout the season but at least there is still something to harvest and there is still hope for a future farming with wonderful efficient tractors and implements.

Not only has Mbaba listened eagerly to advice from his mentor but he has also read as much as he possibly could to become an informed participant in the mentorship pro- cess. His mentor has thoroughly enjoyed his mentorship. In fact, the relationship goes so much deeper as I have witnessed a warm connection growing between two farmers who were strangers but who have developed a mutual respect and a friendship.

Agriculture is the future and the potential to build food security for our nation is in the capable hands of farmers like Mbaba.



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