Karabo named city's "top entrepreneur"

Buhle graduate Karabo Mofekeng (27) has won the top prize at the prestigious City of Ekurhuleni Youth Entrepreneurship Boot Camp prize, where he presented the business plan he developed at the Buhle Farmers’ Academy.

The prize is R200 000-worth of procurement, which will enable him to buy the first set of structures he needs for his poultry farm.

Sixty young entrepreneurs were chosen to participate for the boot camp, a competition and intensive seven-day educational programme where participants received training from captains of industry. Karabo won several rounds before being winnowed out as the most promising entrepreneur in the city.

    

He was representing Kre Agri Holdings, which he set up along with fellow Buhle graduates Elsie Goao (25) and Rebecca Mabasa (24).

City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson Themba Gadebe said the bootcamp was a tool to incubate emerging entrepreneurs “because our economy demands more entrepreneurs in order to create jobs.” Elurhuleni was a youthful city, and it was crucial to ensure that young people are at the centre of economic development, he added.

“The boot camp was extremely tough, physically, emotionally and mentally,” said Karabo. “When I heard that I won, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was ecstatic.”

Karabo had completed courses in livestock and vegetable production at Buhle, and graduated as one of the top three students of both courses. One of the features that sets Buhle apart from other training institutions is a strong emphasis on business skills and developing farming entrepreneurs rather than subsistence farmers. All main courses, including those Karabo completed, include modules on a host of business skills including market research, budgeting and production planning.

Before opting to farm, Karabo had worked in the retail sector for five years, three of these in management “because I worked very hard, so I progressed quickly,” he said.

“After I left retail, I did a lot of self-reflection. I had always loved working outdoors and with animals. I realised that I wanted to become a farmer.

“Being the first person in my entire family to embark on the journey of farming, I lacked the financial muscle, knowledge, experience and support and infrastructure I needed.  However, I decided to follow my heart. I took it upon myself to not let my lack become my destiny.”

Karabo’s mother, a single mom, had ensured that he and his three younger siblings attended good schools, and his sound education played a substantial role in his fast trajectory in retail. However, there had never been enough money for a university education.

“I chose to go to Buhle instead,” he says. “There, I was taken from a position of knowing nothing about farming, to having all the basic skills I needed and being able to speak the language of agriculture.”

After leaving Buhle, Karabo formed Kre Agri Holdings in partnership with Elsie and Rebecca, both of whom “share the same challenges I have, but want to proactively change their own lives and the lives of those around them too,” he says.

They decided that broiler chickens were the best way to raise capital, and managed to secure a lease agreement to erect poultry houses on a local farmer’s land. Their poultry farm had between 750 chickens and 1500 chickens at a time, and the three young farmers obtained what they describe as “a lot of experience and a fair market traction”.

However, their earnings were chewed up by requirements that they had not anticipated, dashing their hopes of a profit. Their enterprise is on hold, pending the conclusion of the agreements that will enable them to resume farming, among them the City of Ekurkhuleni prize.

“We still believe that chickens are the entry point to farming, but it has to be in large numbers of about 25 000 at a time, for the three of us to make a living,” says Karabo.

The three farmers have had substantial signs that they are on the right track. As well as the boot camp prize, they have also been awarded a grant for farming inputs from the Department of Agriculture, which is expected to arrive in October.

“Despite all the challenges we are facing, we are still convinced that agriculture is where we want to be,” says Karabo. “We have entrepreneurial spirits and we are not giving up. We are passionate about farming.

“For us, this is it.”

 

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: