Lerato - a land reform success story

Buhle graduate Lerato Senakhomo, who year received the Star of Buhle award last year – an award given each year to an extraordinary graduate – is a model of perseverance.

“My dad was retrenched in 2010, and we had to sell the plot we owned,” Lerato remembers. “Then we rented, which was very difficult, as landlords are not always easy. For seven years, my parents tried to obtain more land from government. We went through torture.”

Meanwhile, Lerato became determined to grow her own successful farming business, encouraged by her mother’s assertion that agriculture is the “backbone of our economy”, and that she herself could have been very successful if she had started farming at her daughter’s age. Lerato completed three courses at Buhle in the year 2012, and spent the next year trying to get more land, as her parents had been doing.

“I always told myself I wouldn’t wait for government but would apply for every loan out there to help my business grow,” she says. “I knocked on so many doors.

“Getting finance was also hard, even though I knew how to write a good business plan and market my produce, due to the guidance I received from Buhle,” she says, “Several possible deals fell through because I didn’t have finance.”

In 2014, she received 535 hectares from the government’s land reform programme and a loan from a mentor, which enabled her to plant maize. She ploughed the profits into livestock. Over the past four years she has been growing her farm. This year she planted 80 hectares of sugar beans. She also has 600 goats, 80 sheep and 72 Nguni cattle, which she received in February this year from the land-reform programme.

Lerato has also received awards, including one for being the best female farmer in Gauteng from the provincial department of agriculture. Her farming company, Senakhomo Farming, now supports her parents, her two daughters, her brother and herself, and employs six workers. Determined to grow her enterprise even further, she is now planning a large chicken-house and a piggery for 250 pigs. She is keeping her fingers crossed regarding two more possible finance deals.

“I keep telling my mom that when I am 30, I want to be employing 60 people – double my age,” she says, with a smile.

Lerato was the youngest person ever to receive the government grant of Nguni cattle. They are not a gift; after five years, she will have to return an equivalent number. However, by then she will have her own herd.

She is an example of what can be achieved with a passion for farming, a strong business acumen and sheer grit, says Buhle’s director of business and finance, Zamo Shongwe.

Halala, Lerato, halala!


Introducing Buhle

There are many thousands of aspiring farmers in South Africa who have access to arable land but don't have the skills they need to farm it. This problem must be urgently addressed, if we are to ensure the food security of people in the rural areas. The Buhle Farmers’ Academy is a non-profit organisation that trains and mentors aspiring farmers from across South Africa. We offer holistic courses covering a broad range of topics, from the theory of farming to hands-on practical skills, and farm management. Trainees come from all over the country to learn at our two campuses, one of which is near Delmas, Mpumalanga, and the second, which opened in 2016, at Mkhondo (Piet Retief), KwaZulu-Natal. In our 16 years of operation we have grown from strength to strength, and have now trained well over 4 000 emerging farmers – half of them women and 65% of them youth - in vegetable, crops, livestock and mixed farming. Even better, about 8 000 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 new and 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 in our own agricultural sector.

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 mentorship and coaching 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, 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, focussing 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 517 in 2015, and we have now trained well over 4000 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: