Stars of Buhle grow a thriving agribusiness

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.

END

 

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 18 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 10 000 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 500 in 2018, and we have now trained well over 5 000 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: