Thokozani Hlatswayo (41) farms with his 86-year-old father, Robert, on their 800-hectare farm, Broederstroom, in the Amersfoort district. Although he is not planting on a big scale yet, he has achieved an average yield of more than 6 t/ha of maize for the past couple of years.
This season, ThokoZani planted 18 hectares of soybeans instead of maize to create a rotation system. Unfortunately, the high rainfall in the Mpumalanga area made it a challenging season, but he remains positive that it will still be a good season.
Although he would like to grow the crop side of the operation, he has decided to start small and gradually increase his production. This way he can make sure that he masters the skills required to be a successful crop farmer. Apart from the crops, they own cattle, sheep and goats.
After completing his school education, ThokoZani first worked for a furniture firm making office furniture. He then made a career change and worked for African Cables, a company that replaced cables for mines all over South Africa. When he was retrenched in 2015, he went home to the farm and eventually realised that farming was his calling.
At the end of that year, he bought goats at an auction in Ermelo. It was here that he heard about Grain SA and the input developing farmers can receive through the Farmer Development Programme. In 2016, he joined a study group at Daggakraal near Amersfoort and started expanding his agricultural knowledge. He was so committed that he was selected as a finalist in the 2022 Smallholder Farmer of Year category of Grain SA’s Farmer of the Year competition.
ThokoZani is very handy and can fix all his own. Although none of his are interested in agriculture, his 19-year-old nephew is keen to learn the ropes from his uncle and grandfather.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT FARMING?
The soil! Everything we do on the farm revolves around soil – and turns into life. Without soil there is no life. Farming also offers me the opportunity to make a difference in the community, whether it is by the food I grow or the job opportunities I create in harvest time.
HOW ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY?
Apart from sharing my knowledge with other farmers and my workers, I also check the group members’ products and assist them where necessary until harvest time During harvest time, I offer job opportunities by hiring extra hands from within the community to help with the workload.
HOW HAS GRAIN SA CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR OPERATION?
This is a high rainfall area and initially the soil did not produce according to its potential. I phoned Grain SA for assistance and gathered the necessary information from the experts. I have learned so much from them about the importance of input requirements and crop estimates.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE?
I would love to see the youth of South Africa become more interested in agriculture. We sometimes invite pupils to come and see first-hand how farming works. I also hope to one day be a commercial farmer.
THOKOZANI’S THREE TOP TIPS
- You must be passionate about farming before you even begin.
- Farming is hard work – it is not for lazy people.
- Don’t make money your focus – sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. Then you try again.
Nearest town: Amersfoort
Size: 800 ha
Type of farming operation: Mixed (plants maize, soybeans and dry beans and owns cattle, sheep and goats)
GRAIN SA’S CONTRIBUTION
- Joined Grain SA in 2016
- Chairman of the Bethamoya Study Group
Training courses completed:
- Introduction to maize
- Introduction to dry beans
- Introduction to soybeans
- The welding and painting courses
A mentor’s view:
Jurie Mentz, regional development manager at the Louwsburg office, says ThokoZani is a very energetic, hardworking young farmer who is always eager to learn. ‘As chairman of the Bethamoya Study Group, he plays a leading role and sets an example for other farmers in the area when it comes to maize production. He is also always willing to help the other farmers in the group. This young farmer is making a big impact on his fellow farmers and the community at Bethamoya.’
Publication: July 2023