Aviwe Gxotiwe (31), a sheep, chicory and lucerne farmer, aspires to create a financial services business that is has its roots in agriculture.
Gxotiwe believes that technological advancements can help him to achieve his dream of opening a company that provides credit for people wanting to buy livestock. “We need a financial services company in agriculture. If people can buy clothes on credit, they should also be able to buy what they need, on credit, in the agriculture sector,” he said.
The former law student owns two farms in Somerset East which is about 2300 hectres while the one in Alice is 1300 hectres both situated in the Eastern Cape.
The 2300 hectare farm in Somerset East which mainly farms chicory was owned by his father from 2012 to 2016, who got it through the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy.
Gxotiwe saw a gap in the market for chicory, when established farmers stopped farming it. “The decision to farm chicory was purely for profit.
In South Africa, chicory is grown almost solely for the root. This is cut into cubes which are dried, roasted and milled and used for blending with coffee.
“I saw that supply was not meeting demand,” said Gxotiwe, who won the top chicory farmer in South Africa award in 2018. “The farm helped improve our farming products and expand our operations,” he said.
Working with 12 employees, Gxotiwe harvested a chicory yield of 36 tons last year. This year he planted lucerne which is mainly used for animal feed and has already harvested 21 tons. The lucerne and sheep provide a stable financial cushion, which enables him to invest in chicory.
He believes that young people should get into the sector and explore the opportunities that are available to them, such as agro-tourism. He explained that if people are not interested in being farmer, there are avenues in tourism and heritage preservation that they could enjoy.