Up-and-coming farmer takes a blow
Dust billows from the parched ground as a cow breathes heavily into her grazing field.
She and other cattle with protruding ribs have their noses in the dust, scratching for leftovers of scorched grass as they move slowly through rows of dehydrated maize stems. Sharing his cows’ pain is Mosalashuping Kgomo, who stands helplessly watching his emaciated animals, a shadow of their former healthy selves.
Kgomo (54) has a R2.2 million headache – a loan from the Omnia agricultural bank he is struggling to service after the drought destroyed a large portion his harvest. He ploughed 650 hectares of maize and sunflowers last year. Kgomo, a former councillor at the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality, resigned from politics seven years ago to pursue his passion. He began farming on his family’s land in Kopela village, outside the farming town of Delareyville.
“I started with minimal equipment and ailing tractors, but I worked hard and the harvest gods favoured me all those years. Three years ago, I bought an 800ha farm and continued to do well, investing in advanced machinery with every good harvest,” Kgomo said.
“The last harvest was good and I even sold 130 tons of maize to the World Food Programme, which is something I am proud of, knowing I contributed to Africa’s food security. I have become a successful farmer through hard work, dedication and not relying on grants and hand-outs – and I am determined to continue doing this as a sustainable business.” But his confidence has been dented. “The drought has dealt us a really bad blow. I went big in the last season using a R2.2 million loan – and now I am standing here with a big debt problem.”
On his farm in the drought-ravaged Marema agricultural area, Kgomo walks between rows of maize stems no higher than his knee.
Small sunflower heads hang from stunted stems, bearing witness to a drought that has erased the hopes of thousands of farmers who are totally dependent on rain.
“There was minimal rain last year and we were hit hard. I used more than R200 000 on diesel alone, while other costs went to fertilisers and chemicals, as well as other logistics throughout the ground preparation and actual planting,” he said.
“After all the money and effort ... there is nothing much I can show for more than R2 million.”
It is unclear how Kgomo will be able to plant for the new season unless government comes to his aid.
“We have debts to service and have just entered a fresh planting season, which also requires money,” he said. But he is refusing to give up. “I may be forced to take a gamble and use my savings and cash in my investments to ensure this season does not pass without any planting. Right now, we can only pray for more rain,” he said.
The North West government did not respond to queries about the drought’s impact on its farmers, but the SABC reported that farmers stood to lose more than R4.8 billion. The provincial government has set aside more than R160 million to deal with the drought and said in a recent statement it had received about 20 000 assessment forms from farmers, and a report would soon be finalised and a proposal sent to National Treasury.
But unless relief comes soon, it may be too late for farmers, some of whom would have not sown anything by the time the planting season ends. KwaZulu-Natal: eThekwini, iLembe, Ugu, uThukela, uMkhanyakude, Harry Gwala, Umzinyathi, uMgungundlovu, Zululand and uThungulu
Mantsopa, Nketoana, Setsoto, Masilonyana, Tokologo, Dihlabeng, Moqhaka, Mohokare, Maluti-A-Phofung, Mafube and Letsemeng
KwaZulu-Natal: Hazelmere Dam –
Harding Dam –
Klip River –
Hluhluwe Dam –
Lake Merthley –
Ulundi Water Treatment Works –
Lake Hlabane –
Lake Mzingazi Dam –
Lake Nsezi –
Goedertrouw Dam –
Amatikulu River –
Melmoth Dam –
Balele Dam –
Rustfontein Dam –
Allemanskraal Dam –
Tierpoort Dam –
Kalkfontein Dam –
SLIM PICKINGS Mosalashuping Kgomo’s emaciated cattle scratch desperately in the soil on his North West farm to find anything to sustain them