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Mpumalanga’s farming transformation success story

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

Farmer Thandi Mokoena is breaking new ground in agriculture, thanks to government assistance.Farmer development programmes sponsored by government have enabled a farmer to not only develop her business, but to also upskill her 47 employees.

Owner of Matsino Farm, Thandi Mokoena (51), has made the most of the 700 hectare farm she received from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) in 2011.

In August, she won the Top Entrepreneur: Processing accolade in the Mpumalanga leg of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) Female Entrepreneur Awards and went on to represent the province in the national competition.

Although Daphne Neethling from the Western Cape took the ultimate honours, Mokoena’s performance showed just how successful a farmer she is, given that she has maintained the momentum created back in 2013 when she first won the regional leg of the DAFF awards.

Based in White River, Matsino Farm’s main area of enterprise is forestry, and involves mainly gum and eucalyptus trees. Operations include cutting, manually bucking, sorting and labelling, packing and loading timber for delivery to clients.

In addition, the farm raises livestock and produces organic manure. Mokoena’s livestock venture benefitted from DAFF support after she applied for and received 25 Bonsmara heifers and one bull.

A job as a farm worker at Komatiland Forests is what ignited Mokoena's passion for forestry and prompted her to start her own business.

Today, Matsino Farm’s timber operations has well-established clients, including Impala and Modikwa mines. Mokoena is currently in talks with Chinese officials and businesses and hopes to soon start exporting her timber products.

“The farm has helped me improve my life. It has also allowed me to assist in upskilling others,” she said, explaining that the Agricultural Sector Education Training Authority has assisted in ensuring her employees benefit from the relevant government training programmes.

On a personal level, she has seized a number of training opportunities. Through DAFF-funded learnerships, she travelled to China in 2015 and 2017 and Australia in 2015, 2017 and 2018. In addition, she completed a DAFF-funded business management course through Stellenbosch University.

For more information about the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s programmes, visit www.drdlr.gov.za or call 012 312 8911. For DAFF programmes, visit the website www.daff.gov.za or call 012 319 6000.