SOLOMON MASANGO Where there's a will, there's a way
The beloved Nelson Mandela said: 'Once a person is determined to help themselves, there is nothing that can stop them'. When Solomon Masango made the decision to leave the mining industry and return to the farm where he was raised, he was determined to succeed as a farmer and nothing was going to stop him.
This determination (and hard work) paid off as he became the 2015 winner of the Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year Award. He was also the first to receive a huge prize from sponsors John Deere Financial in partnership with Absa. The prize, a John Deere 5403 48 kW tractor, has made a huge difference on the farm as he was able to plant more hectares per day than with the old tractor.
The land Solomon leases in the Carolina area belongs to Ubuhle Uyazenzela CPA. He believes in conservation agriculture practices and plants maize and soybeans in a rotation system. Livestock – cattle and goats – are also part of his farming operation. He is currently in the process of buying his own farm and plans to expand his farming enterprise.
Although he started off in the mining industry in 1994 working at the Bennicon mine in the Witbank area, he is a farmer at heart who grew up on a farm. 'All my previous jobs were only the beginning of a career. Farming is my passion,' he shares. His decision to change from working underground to working above ground was interesting. 'I realised that mining activities were extracting valuable goods from the ground and eventually there would be nothing left to mine. However cultivating the land and producing crops is a cycle that can be repeated season after season.'
This humble father of five joined the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme in 2012 and the Carolina Study Group in 2014. At that stage he was planting 150 ha of maize and 200 ha of soybeans. Since joining, he has increased his average maize yield from 3,5 t/ha to 6 t/ha in the 2015 season. Although the widespread drought of the past season had an effect on his maize production, Solomon is very thankful that he produced a good harvest on the 250 ha soybean planted. A yield of 340 tons was achieved and according to Solomon the 'price was beautiful'. Where he usually produces 5 t/ha - 5,5 t/ha on maize, he realised only 3,5 t/ha this season. 'I did everything according to the book, but I cannot make it rain,' he says and admits humbly that a higher power plays an important role in agriculture. Compared to other farmers in the drought stricken areas of the country, he is however extremely grateful for an above average season.
Solomon acknowledges the role Grain SA's Farmer Development Programme and study groups have played in his growth as a farmer. The mentorship programme helped him improve the basics of his farming practice like determining the production potential of each land. He joined the Carolina Study Group in 2014. Jurie Mentz is currently his mentor.
After winning he was overwhelmed with phone calls from other emerging farmers wanting advice about their own farming practise. It was therefore not long before Grain SA decided to apply this knowledge. This worthy winner is now also sharing his expertise with other emerging farmers and he and Jurie work closely together advising farmers in the area.
He feels the most important advice he can share with other emerging farmers is the following:
- Remember that a farmer plays a very important role in the food chain – without us there will be no food.
- Work hard.
- Know what to do and if you don't know, ask someone who does.
- Plan ahead and set goals as this will help you to remain focussed.
- Think ahead as timing is crucial in farming. The right thing has to be done at the right time to be able to produce a good crop.
- Make sure to apply weed control and keep your paperwork up to date.
- Grow – desire to be more, to have more and to produce more so that others can benefit from what you are doing.
The first African American appointed as US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, once said: 'A dream doesn't become a reality by magic. It takes sweat, determination and hard work.' Solomon Masango dreams of owning his own land, of being a fully fledged commercial farmer working on 10 000 ha and owning 4 000 cattle. His track record shows that this dream will probably become a reality in the near future.
Solomon is making sure his son loves farming and that he can one day follow in his footsteps. At only 12 years of age Theo, Solomon's only son, is already a keen farmer who closely watches his father's every move. 'He can do anything a man can do and loves learning everything about farming,' he talks proudly about his son. Wife Christina is his right hand on the farm and his biggest supporter and their four daughters are all proud of what their loving father has achieved.
This month's edition of The Corner Post was written by Louise Kunz, Pula Imvula contributor.
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Publication: August 2016