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Agri Careers: Meet an organic fertiliser specialist

Thapelo Phiri Jnr is the director of an agribusiness that helps farmers improve soil fertility and mitigate the effects of climate change

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Ever heard of an organic fertiliser specialist? Meet Thapelo Phiri Jnr, who helps crop farmers get the most out of the land they farm on.

Phiri is the director of Golden Legacy Trading and Projects, an agribusiness in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, that helps farmers improve soil fertility and mitigate the effects of climate change.

But the 28-year-old is more than just a “groundkeeper”. Farmers look to him for guidance and advice on preventing pests and crop diseases and he believes solving problems and making recommendations related to soil fertility and insect, disease and weed control is a wonderful thing.

1Sum up your job:
My job is developing organic products. Currently we have an organic fertiliser called Dijo Tsa Mobu. It is formulated to improve sustainable agriculture by improving soil fertility and mitigating the effects of climate change in the industry by helping produce be climate resistant. This helps in keeping the roots system moist for longer periods even during high temperatures and also improves food security by increasing the quality and quantity of produce.

2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail?
My day-to-day entails product sales, research about the future of the industry and trying to find innovative and sustainable ways to make it possible for the industry to feed the ever-growing population. I do farm visits and help farmers to create models that could lead to sustainable farming practices and building networks.

3

What qualification do you need for this career?
One would need to have a qualification in fields related to biotechnology, microbiology and biochemistry. Personally, I didn’t study in any field related to what I do now. I believe imagination, passion and determination can play a greater role in a field characterized by rapid changes.

4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job?
The key is willingness to learn, unlearn and re-learn consistently, because of the increasing number of challenges that the industry faces – from climate change to soil degradation. These are some of the major issues happening rapidly and you need to be willing to fail and start again. Also, being innovative is a must when creating products that can be helpful in the future.

Thapelo Phiri Jnr says he loves agriculture because he believes it is the future.
Thapelo Phiri Jnr says he loves agriculture because he believes it is the future.

5Have you always worked in the agriculture sector?
I can say yes, because agriculture has always been close to some of the areas I have worked in. I have done a lot of work in social innovation and I am glad that it is now my major focus.

6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in?
I love agriculture because I believe it is the future. It is always great for me working in a space that continues to grow and allows innovation to be an enabler of that future.

Agriculture continues to impact lives and has great potential to be the sector with high employment opportunities and a great tool for solving issues of inequalities in our country. Being in the sector brings the sense of pride knowing that I am part of an industry that is the heart and soul of human existence.

7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments?
I have couple but I’ll name my top two. I was head-hunted by international organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation on food-related programs and the New Economy and Social Innovation Forum, where I now sit as a member and a representative for South Africa. Lastly, it was being selected and being the first representative in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to be part of the Youth Leaders For Global Change resolution 2020, leading to the United Nations where I am focusing on sustainable development goals 1, 2 and 3. These are goals focusing on food security.

8What do you do when you’re not at work?
I enjoy jogging if I’m not playing soccer as a way to keep my health in a good state. I have a foundation that is focusing on entrepreneurship and education. Sometimes I try to find ways to collaborate with other organizations to try and use entrepreneurship and education as tools to uplift disadvantaged communities.

I also enjoy helping with social projects where I work with universities on finding ways to achieve sustainable development goals by using innovation and entrepreneurship with Enactus SA. There, I also serve as a judge during national competitions.

9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story?
I would say, firstly and very importantly, you have to love what you do and then be prepared for a lot of rejections. However, continue working on what you believe is possible with the highest level of enthusiasm day in and day out until the end. Start where you are and with what you have, because the greatest asset we all have while we are young is time. Therefore, we need to invest it wisely and, without fail, put God first.

Duncan Masiwa
Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.
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