Despite difficulties and the various challenges that communal farming poses, Vinah Khuphukile Mazibuko (62), the 2022 Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial Subsistence Farmer of the year, managed to transform from planting to just put food on the table into a farmer working for profit.
Vinah lives on communal land in the Madolobeni village in the Estcourt region, where she is a community caregiver for the Department of Health. She became aware of the importance of agriculture when she was in her twenties and saw how families in the area where she lived, planted and grew food from seed to survive. Although she started farming on a small scale nearly 40 years ago, it was only after joining Grain SA, attending study groups and doing various training courses, that her agricultural knowledge really developed.
On her plot of land in KwaZulu-Natal, she has changed to no-till practices and plants maize and dry beans in a crop rotation cycle. Her home has become the ‘agricultural hub’ of the village and she is keen to share her knowledge with others. She is also teaching community members about the advantages of no-till farming practices.
In the Mazibuko’s family operation everything is done by hand. Vinah is always thinking ahead of how to grow her small farming operation – whether it is through the building of a new structure or an additional business opportunity such as chicken farming. Her husband, Nsiyane Mazibuko, is the handyman who builds and fixes what is needed. Their two sons are a great support to them and one of their grandsons, Senzo, has become Vinah’s right hand and is keen to follow in his grandmother’s footsteps. He is at her side, learning from his granny as much as possible. The Mazibuko’s also own cattle, goats and a few chickens.
WHAT HAS MADE YOU A SUCCESSFUL FARMER?
If you want to be a successful farmer, you need to love farming – and I love farming! You have to enjoy what you are doing, with no anxiety or anger. I also follow the agricultural practices I have learned in the training courses and stick to the advice I have been given by Grain SA.
HOW MUCH MAIZE DO YOU PLANT?
In the 2019/2020 season, I planted about 1,6 hectares of maize and harvested nearly 4,5 tons. Last season I planted 2 hectares and I realised a yield of 9 tons, of which 8 tons was sold on the commercial market to a grain broker in Winterton, while the other was for my own use and livestock feed.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A FARMER?
Apart from finances, transport is a big problem and climate change also has a huge impact. We do not have enough clean water for spraying the crops, but our biggest challenge is the cattle in the community that graze where we have planted – even in the fenced areas. We had to erect crop cages to protect our crops.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE?
I want to grow as a farmer and increase my field of maize to be able to sell more. I also want to venture into poultry farming to subsidise the crops and cattle.
3 TIPS FROM A WINNER
- Love what you do.
- Work hard.
- Expand your knowledge.
Farm: Communal land
Nearest town: Loskop
Size: Plot of land for planting, cattle graze on open communal land
Type: Mixed (plants maize and dry beans, owns some livestock)
GRAIN SA’S CONTRIBUTION
- Member of the Siyalima Siyaphambile Study Group
- Joined Grain SA in 2015
- Part of Grain SA’s Beyond Abundance Project
Training courses completed:
- Introduction to maize production
- Introduction to dry bean production
- Nutrition: Different food groups
- Mycotoxins: Safe storage of maize
A mentor’s view:
Graeme Engelbrecht, Grain SA’s regional development manager at the Dundee office, says Vinah has progressed well over the years. She has attended many courses to improve her agricultural knowledge. She is a very hardworking farmer, who has gained respect from her community.
Publication: March 2023