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The ups and downs of farming

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

A Mpumalanga emerging farmer is ploughing ahead, having already won a prestigious award and secured a substantial contract for her maize.

A young female maize farmer is taking giant leaps towards becoming a successful commercial farmer.

Njabulo Mbokane (24), the owner of a 200-hectare non-genetically modified organism yellow maize farm, was recently named the South African Breweries (SAB) and FarmSol Young Emerging Farmer of the Year.

The Ermelo-based farmer leases two farms; one in her hometown; where she grows crops, and the other in Lothair; where she raises sheep.

Despite only starting farming in 2016, Mbokane already has a year-on-year maize contract with SAB.Njabulo Mbokane runs a 200-hectare farm. She is seeking funding to purchase a tractor which will allow her to expand her business.

She is part of the FarmSol programme, which is an SAB Thrive Fund initiative aimed at funding Agri-SMMEs; providing technical training and support to emerging farmers; giving access to modern production inputs and patient financing to qualifying enterprises and enabling emerging farmers to find a route to market for their produce.

“FarmSol mentors us and helps us with training. It also assists us in taking samples of the maize and soil.” Mbokane was financially unable to study further after matric but knew that agriculture held many opportunities for people with the will to work hard.

“I started farming because I saw a gap that young people should explore and I went for it.”

Mbokane employs three permanent staff members and hires 15 seasonal employees during peak periods. She is looking to expand her operations to include cattle and vegetables once she has secured her own land and farming equipment.

Having her own tractors, for instance, will enable her to plant on time whereas with hired equipment, she can only plant when the tractor owner has finished his planting.

Mbokane started the farm with her mother’s pension payout and said that young people need not wait for a big break before making a start on their farming dream. “Start with the little that you have, even if it’s the garden in your backyard, and grow from there,” she said.

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