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The Corner Post

July 2022


Although Luvuyo Mbutho (59) had to endure many challenges since becoming a farmer, he has persevered thanks to the support of his neighbouring farmers. He has also benefitted greatly from the input from Grain SA’s mentorship programme.

Luvuyo is passionate about farming. At an early age, he already worked with his father in the fields. He started farming on his own on 4 hectares of arable land in a small village, but soon realised that he had to get his own land if he wanted to expand his farming enterprise.

‘I had a passion to produce superior quality beef and mutton, and I also wanted to produce more maize. The other land in the village was used by the community, and the people were not sharing my vision. To produce what I had in mind, I had to break away,’ he says.

In 2008, Luvuyo and his family obtained their 951-hectare farm, Altona Farm in the Swartberg area in KwaZulu-Natal, through the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) Programme of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). Here they produce maize and also keep beef cattle, sheep and pigs.

He sees himself as a successful farmer, as he can provide adequately for his family through his farming operation. ‘I make my own money from the farm because I can sell my livestock and the maize I grow to provide for my family.’

Luvuyo has been a member of Grain SA for two years and since then has seen a vast improvement in his maize production. He sings the praises of his mentor, Eric Wiggill, and the regional development coordinator at the Kokstad office, Luke Collier, who have invested their time and knowledge into his farming operation. ‘I planted 126 hectares of maize this season – it is the most I have planted in the twelve years that I have been farming.’

Last season Luvuyo averaged 7 t/ha and the previous season, which was a drier season, his average was 6 t/ha. Silage is grown on 15 hectares and the other land is used as grazing for the cattle. The maize he produces, is distributed in his area through local shops and farmers who produce feed for their livestock. 

The biggest lesson Luvuyo has learned as a farmer is the value of working together. Good relationships with neighbouring farmers have made a stark difference in his enterprise. As a farmer, he has also learned that sharing is important – whether it is sharing knowledge or equipment. ‘I have learned to share not just what I own, but also what I know,’ he says. ‘Sharing your knowledge with others does not take anything away from you. It helps you to grow.’

He believes there is always room for improvement, and this is why sharing is important. ‘I may not know that I need to improve unless I meet someone who knows more. This is why it is important to get together and learn from each other as often as possible.’

Luvuyo has invested in his farming operation by attending courses offered by Grain SA. He is a regular attendee at the Ongeluksnek Study Group and when meetings do not take place, the study group members stay in regular contact to help each other stay on track. ‘As farmers we are all also farm workers, so in the busy season there is not much time to be away from the farm. Then cellphones are useful.’

The study group topics that have really helped Luvuyo on the farm, is about soil preparation and the correct use of equipment. ‘Everything was explained so simply. Luke explains things so well that it feels as if the discussion is taking place on the farm. I immediately recognised all the mistakes I was making.’

With the session on soil sampling, Luvuyo realised what a substantial difference it can make if you determine the status of your soil before planting. ‘The type of soil and what your soil needs can help increase the yield. I am glad I became a member of Grain SA – I am very, very glad.’

Learning the importance of storing equipment correctly will ensure that the Mbutho’s implements last longer. ‘I also learned that I must keep a record of the diesel usage on the farm. This will help me plan the budget.’

‘We need to expand,’ says Luvuyo about his dreams for the future. He would like to produce good quality maize and increase his yield to 10 t/ha. On the livestock side, he wants to work towards selling cattle twice a year to have capital available for growth. 

Luvo (27), his younger son, spent two years in New Zealand and 18 months in Australia working on farms to gain experience. ‘He is very interested in dairy farming and wanted to gain knowledge about it.’ Although Luvuyo does not have dairy farming in mind for his own operation, Luvo gathered valuable information about the production of livestock feed which has come in useful at Altona Farm. Luvuyo does not yet have a succession plan in place, but Siviwe (30), who also lives on the farm, has shown a keen interest in farming and is learning from his father. 

It is said that we don’t grow when things are easy; we grow when we face challenges. Luvuyo has experienced this first-hand. Some of the challenges he is facing are the lack of equipment, which makes sticking to planting dates difficult; an unstable workforce with labourers leaving to look for better opportunities and then returning seeking employment again; and running fires.

He believes that agriculture offers a solution to many problems in South Africa. ‘If the youth can learn to grow food, they can help their families and the community. It will also help to diminish crime, as people will be kept busy. Idle hands commit crime. If someone is kept busy, he will work and then need rest. If you are not busy, you start thinking about bad things to do.’

Publication: July 2022

Section: Pula/Imvula