Brothers November and Jerimiah Nkosi had no farming skills whatsoever when they were granted a 1500ha farm in Amersfoort, Mpumalanga, by the Department of Land Reform, in 2007. However, they were determined to become successful farmers.
It has taken many years, but the Nkosi brothers have overcome a host of obstacles and their perseverance has paid off. Their farm, Botshabelo Investment (Pty) Ltd, in Amersfoort, Mpumalanga, is now a thriving agribusiness, supporting their 12 family members and paying the salaries of their 11 workers.
“We also make a handsome enough profit to budget for planting, harvesting and ongoing plans for improvement and expansion,” says November.
They have 300ha of soya beans, 200ha of yellow maize, and 100ha each of sugar beans and white maize under production, as well as 120 cows, 50 sheep, 80 goats and 10 pigs.
The brothers studied Crop Production at Buhle Farmers’ Academy in 2011, and Poultry Production in 2013. Buhle then mentored them through its Farmer Support Programme, visiting their farm twice a year to help them plan, problem-solve and to give them encouragement. Through this growth and support, the brothers became prime candidates for the Star of Buhle award, which recognises exceptional graduates. They received the prestigious award at the 21 November 2018 graduation ceremony.
As part of the land reform package, the land came with 50 cattle, and a voucher with which they bought a tractor and sheep from the provincial Department of Agriculture. “But we didn’t have the money to pay for fencing, or for the labour to look after the cattle and protect it from thieves,” remembers Nkosi. “We had to ask our parents and neighbours for loans and find ways of paying them back.
“Our solution was to buy and rear chickens, selling them to the community, and also to plant cabbage and spinach and sell this to a shop in Ermelo. This way, we got the money we needed.”
“When we had a drought in 2014 – 2015, our livestock suffered, as there was not enough water and grass for them. Some cattle fell sick and died. This taught us that we have to budget for feed and medicine, and to inject the cattle to prevent illness. We also repaired our solar panels, which pump water out of our boreholes, and we built a water tank to hold the water for the livestock. These things solved the problem.
“We’re now looking into getting more livestock and buying feed for it, instead of relying on grazing land, and starting to use artificial insemination. We’re also thinking of processing our maize into mieliemeal.”
“Buhle helped us a lot regarding production and motivation,” says November. “Their farming tips and encouragement have made a big difference to us. They would say, ‘Keep it up, guys, you’re doing well. You can make it.’ Thanks to Buhle for giving us all the skills we have, and for opening our eyes to see new things about farming.
“I know that farming is the right thing for me, because I have a good understanding of it now.
“Thank you also to all those who support us, including our labourers and our family.”
The brothers’ message to new farmers is that they need to plan properly, setting their timelines and goals beforehand, and to persevere over the years in solving each problem and expanding their farms.
“After that, the things you need will follow,” November says.
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