Lona Kobu (42), a single mother of a 13-year-old daughter, is dreaming of becoming one of the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme’s success stories. Judging by the improvement she has shown in one year, this dream may very well become a reality.
In the 2021/2022 planting season, Lona harvested five 50 kg bags of maize on a quarter of a hectare. During this planting season (2022/2023), she is expecting to realise about twenty 50 kg bags per 0,25 hectares – which works out at about 4 t/ha.
After completing her school career, Lona worked in the mining industry – but she always felt a calling to follow in her parents’ footsteps and work the land to grow food. So, three years ago she decided to quit her job and realise her lifelong dream. Her parents, January (85) and Josephina (79), were subsistence farmers but are now too old to farm.
After joining Grain SA, she discovered that growing maize and vegetables does not just put food on the table, but that it can actually be a ‘business’ that puts cash in her pocket. Apart from maize, Lona plants tomatoes, spinach and green pepper. Surplus produce are sold in the community and the money she gets, buys what is needed to support her daughter and parents. Besides the crops, She also owns some cattle, goats and chickens.
Lona does all the farm work on her own, but she has a friend who helps her with the planting, which is done by hand. In turn, she helps her friend. She believes that farming is a wonderful career and that more people should get involved in agriculture. ‘Everything is so expensive these days. If you farm, you can put food on the table and help others to have food too.’
It is just natural for me to be a farmer – it’s in my blood. I love farming because it is life. It is wonderful to see your hard work pay off when the crops start to grow.
WHAT DIFFERENCE HAS GRAIN SA MADE IN YOUR FARMING OPERATION?
A huge difference! Since joining Grain SA and attending the study group meetings, my farming methods and agricultural knowledge have improved so much. I have attended four meetings and have learned more about soil management, soil acidity, maize varieties, the fertilisation on maize, weed and pest control. We always used kraal manure, but now I can see what a difference store-bought fertiliser makes. I didn’t even know that the soil should be analysed to see what is needed to improve the crops. I am learning how to farm properly now with these better production practices.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE?
At this stage, animals are my biggest ‘enemy’. The birds and monkeys steal the seeds and eat whatever is starting to grow, and the cattle enter my field and eat my crop. I must be on the lookout all day to protect my crops.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE?
I would love to have more land, so that I can produce more maize. Farming is all I want to do.
LONA’S THREE TOP TIPS
- Check your soil. Healthy soil means healthy plants.
- Learn from others, because knowledge is important.
- Be on the farm. Scout your fields daily and make sure that everything is right.
Farm: Communal land
Nearest town: Burgersfort
Size: 0,5 ha of communal land
Type: Mixed (plants maize and vegetables and has livestock)
GRAIN SA’S CONTRIBUTION
- Lona joined Grain SA in November 2021.
- She is a member of the Ribe Study Group.
Training courses completed:
Introduction to maize production (five-day course)
A mentor’s view:
Jerry Mthombothi, regional development manager at the Mbombela office, who looks after farmers in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, says Lona is a promising subsistence farmer. “She is determined to improve her agricultural practices and listens to advise. I am sure when she increases her field up to 1 ha in the near future, she will be able to produce even more to support her family.”
Publication: May 2023