“We’re growing the farm and keeping it for our children.”

About six years ago, Husna Raza took a calculated risk.

She withdrew money from an investment account to pay down a large portion of a seven-hectare farm in Vischkuil, Gauteng. Her aim was to expand the existing family business by starting a poultry farm and supplying eggs to her husband, who is a bulk egg supplier.

Infrastructure and production costs were higher than anticipated, so she quickly switched to planting vegetables. She followed the advice of people she knew but suffered bad losses. For a while, feeling defeated, she stopped farming altogether.

Then, three years ago, a series of encounters brought her to Buhle’s door. She applied to study Vegetable Production and was accepted at the second attempt.

After graduating from Buhle in November 2019, Husna felt re-energised and began to apply the skills she had learned. She is now successfully growing seasonal vegetables.

Before enrolling at Buhle, Husna was harvesting about 120kg of spinach weekly. She is currently harvesting up to 200kg of spinach weekly and, in summer, about 35kg of green peppers, 50kg of chillies and some coriander, tomatoes and aubergines.

“One of the things I learnt that has made a tremendous difference is the proper use of fertiliser. Another was learning to identify insect pests and establish how to control them,” she said.

“There’s still some trial and error, but we are pushing ourselves. If I don’t know something now, I check with Buhle for answers.”

She’s taking up the advice to protect her crop from environmental damage by putting up shade netting.

Husna has a community spirit. When some of her distribution channels were disrupted during lockdown, and hail destroyed some of her spinach, she turned it into something good by chopping it up and distributing it to those in need

Husna employs two permanent and three part-time workers. As a couple, she and her husband maximise their strengths: she manages the fields and her husband markets the produce. In the first three months after graduation, she had contracts with the large supplier Agricool, which provides fresh produce to outlets across Johannesburg, and sold to several Spaza shops. Her business was finally making a profit.

As lockdown stages are gradually relaxed, she is managing to cover her costs.

Her youngest son, aged 12, now loves poultry and has started his own chicken farm in the family’s back yard. This is a source of pride to Husna. “When lockdown eases, I want to start a small broiler production unit, something he can continue,” she says. “Poultry gives a larger income, and we’ll also continue with the vegetables.”

Before lockdown, coriander was in demand from the local shops. With restaurants closed, Husna has had excess coriander but she’s using technology and social media to market her produce on WhatsApp and Facebook, and the orders are coming in.

“We’ve had challenges, including financial issues, but the farm has taught us a lesson: If you fend for yourself, eventually it works out. You will succeed, especially if you work hard.”

Farming is a job to be proud of, Husna says. “You can feed yourself and others too, and if you put in the effort, at the end of the day, it can be very lucrative.

“In the Indian community, some people think it’s odd to have a woman farming, but now I’m getting people asking me for advice on how to plant.

“I love it. It’s fun. Some days it’s tiring, but many days you just enjoy being outdoors.

“Now, we’re growing the farm and keeping it for our children.”

ENDS


 

Introducing Buhle

There are many thousands of new farmers in South Africa who have access to arable land but don't have the skills, guidance and capital they need to grow a viable farming business. Buhle Farmers’ Academy is a non-profit organisation that trains, mentors and supports these aspiring farmers.

We offer holistic courses covering all the farming and management skills that new farmers need (see Programme section for more details), and trainees come from all over the country to learn at our campus near Delmas, Mpumalanga. Our farmer support offices mentor as many of our graduates as possible, and we manage several programme providing financial support to some of our most promising alumni.

Since we opened our doors in the year 2000 we have grown from strength to strength, and have now trained about 6 000 emerging farmers - half of them women and 60% of them youth - in vegetable, crops, poultry and livestock production, and mixed farming. Even better, about 12 000 jobs have been created due to Buhle, based on the assumption that for every new farmer established, at least one additional job is created.

Our Mission

Buhle’s mission is train and support aspiring farmers from across South Africa to run farming businesses that are both profitable and sustainable. The effect is that we are helping to alleviate poverty by creating jobs, while ensuring food security.

Over the years, Buhle has developed a best-practice model that could help make a huge difference in helping to transform agriculture in South Africa.

In the rural and poorest areas of our country, the biggest employers are government, agriculture and mining. Most of these employers are unlikely to radically increase their take-up of employees. Our biggest hope lies in developing a culture of entrepreneurship, and agriculture is one of the key sectors for doing so.

Universities and training colleges are expensive and have strict academic entrance criteria, which many aspiring farmers cannot fulfil. They need accessible, practical training with the follow-up coaching and support that enables them to overcome the myriad, unpredictable challenges of agriculture.

Buhle fulfils these needs.

Our History
In the years after 1994 – when South Africa became a democracy – our newspapers were peppered with stories of how farming ventures fail after being handed over to black farmers. It became clear that transferring land was simply not enough. Emerging farmers also needed farming skills and ongoing mentorship.

A group of concerned citizens with agricultural expertise decided to address this problem. In the year 2000, they got together to form the Food Health Hope Foundation and, under its auspices, Buhle – meaning “It is good” – was established.

Our founding partner was Monsanto, now Bayer, who donated to us the fertile land that became our training farm and gave us the start-up capital we needed. We developed our first curriculum in conjunction with Tshwane University of Technology, focusing on vegetable production as it has a short production cycle. Two years later, we added poultry, livestock and crop production courses.

In 2004, we registered the Buhle Farmers’ Academy as an NPO in order to continue our fundraising efforts. We have grown from strength to strength over the years. From our first cohort of 57 students in the year 2000, we trained over 500 in 2018, and we have now trained almost 6 000 farmers over the years.

Our heartfelt thanks go to every one of our funding partners. With your backing and partnership, we are indeed fulfilling our mission: to transform dreams into reality for many thousands of aspiring farmers.

Our Approach

Buhle has developed a best-practice model for training aspiring farmers, which includes:

  • A sound theoretical knowledge base in agricultural technology
  • Competency based practical skills training
  • Training in farm business management
  • Training in appropriate life skills
  • Effective follow-up and support services.

Our People

Our staff are the people who make it all happen, and behind us is the highest authority of our organisation, the Board of Trustees of the Food Health Hope Foundation.

The Board oversees our vision, mission and activities. Motivated entirely by their sense of philanthropy, they donate their time, knowledge, experience and prestige to help grow and guide the Buhle Farmers’ Academy.

A picture of our staff on each campus is below, and underneath that is a list of our board of trustees.

buhle-staff-2015

Our Partners

Our heartfelt thanks go to every one of our partners, who make our work possible: