Lo­cal com­mu­nity reaps farm’s re­wards

Vuk'uzenzele - - Rural Development - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

FARM­ING HAS en­sured a bet­ter life for a KwaZulu-Natal farmer and his com­mu­nity.

When Mhlonipheni Zulu (54) dropped out of school to look af­ter his fa­ther’s cat­tle, he had no idea it would mo­ti­vate him to start his own farm­ing busi­ness. Zulu owns the 820-hectare Ge­lyk­wa­ter Farm in Ba­banango, KwaZulu-Natal, which breeds and sells cows, sheep and chick­ens to the mar­ket.

The farm has 350 cows and 170 sheep and on av­er­age sells be­tween 60 and 70 cows an­nu­ally. Zulu has em­ployed nine per­ma­nent work­ers from lo­cal dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies and plans to em­ploy an­other six at the start of the maize and bean har­vest­ing sea­son.

Zulu also owns tree har­vest­ing com­pany Siyaw­isa Hlathi.

It wasn’t easy for Zulu to start his farm as he had to with­draw all of his sav­ings from his tree har­vest­ing busi­ness to buy the land. “I didn’t have enough money to fence the farm. I ap­proached Ithala Bank for a loan and luck­ily my ap­pli­ca­tion was suc­cess­ful. I had no choice but to make it work be­cause I in­vested all I had into the farm and the loan had to be paid back. I worked hard and planted maize to use for feed­ing,” he said.

Since start­ing the farm two years ago, Zulu has faced a num­ber of chal­lenges, in­clud- ing find­ing the right staff to look af­ter his farm when he is busy with Siyaw­isa Hlathi. “The an­i­mals are like ba­bies and they need to be looked af­ter 24/7. You have to be there all the time and al­ways have a stock of med­i­ca­tion, es­pe­cially for ticks,” he said.

Nkosi­nathi Mh­longo, one of Zulu’s em­ploy­ees, said he en­joys his job be­cause it helps him to pro­vide for his fam­ily.

“I don’t have any plans to move. In fu­ture, I want to breed and sell chick­ens be­cause I have gained a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence here,” he said.

Zulu en­cour­ages peo­ple to work hard to achieve their dreams. “Ed­u­ca­tion is im­por­tant, but if you didn’t have ac­cess to it, like me, you must try to do some­thing you en­joy and have the skills to do,” said Zulu.

He en­cour­ages as­pir­ing farm­ers to be pa­tient when start­ing their busi­ness. “The farm­ing busi­ness is not as sim­ple as it looks. You must have pa­tience be­cause you can­not start now and make money to­mor­row. It is a long process that re­quires pa­tience and a love of farm­ing,” he said.

His se­crets to suc­cess are de­ter­mi­na­tion, com­mit­ment, shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with other farm­ers and a love of farm­ing.

Siyaw­isa Hlathi used to em­ploy 300 work­ers for man­ual har­vest­ing, but the in­tro­duc­tion of ma­chines has de­creased this num­ber to 40.

Zulu works with his wife Nkosingiphile at Siyaw­isa Hlathi. The for­mer teacher man­ages of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tion while Zulu man­ages the over­all op­er­a­tions.

“To work with my wife helps a lot, be­cause she is al­ways there for the busi­ness,” he said.

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