When Nomathemba Langa from Brits in the North West received a farm from her father, she wanted to build on the legacy he started. But it would take grit and hard work to get where she is right now – a pig farmer who provides quality pork to retailers. And to top it all off, she uses the farm as a training centre for aspirant farmers.
Langa’s father, Simphiwe Zikalala, bought the Zvezda game resort near Brits in 2013 with the hope of ensuring that the family’s farming legacy continues.
She says following the purchase of the farm, her dad challenged her to choose a project that will not only be profitable and benefit the family, but also uplift young farmers in the Brits area.
There were a range of animals on the farm, including pigs and sheep. They also had vegetables, but she knew immediately that vegetable farming was not for her.
Then she noticed that the pigs were suffering and decided to learn more about caring for them.
“I went to Pietermaritzburg for training and when I came back, my mindset had changed. I knew that I wanted to start farming with pigs commercially,” she says.
Today, she not only farms with pigs on her 300 hectares of land, she also slaughters them in an abattoir on the farm and sells the meat to retailers and other individuals.
No easy road
Langa says since the beginning of her farming journey, she experienced a lot of challenges that made her stronger as a farmer.
One of the biggest challenges was complying with environmental laws. “I started looking for quotations and I realised that [getting an environmental impact study done] cost about R250 000.”
According to Langa, the assessment report was needed for a number of reasons. She was breeding with over 300 pigs and was selling meat to retailers, so the study was imperative.
She started knocking on government doors for funding for the assessment, but to no avail. She was beginning to think that her pig farming dreams wouldn’t materialise.
Manna from heaven
Then, her parents revealed that the assessment was done years ago, when the farm was bought.
“My parents were old and misplaced a lot of documents. Only when we did a thorough check, did we get the assessment documents which resulted in us being able to apply for water rights, loans and abattoirs,” she says.
She has since been able to obtain vet certificates, although her water rights license is still outstanding.
“With those certificates I manage to slaughter my pigs at an abattoir and once I have done that, I am able to get my abattoir gradings. From there onwards, I knew I could provide quality pork,” she says. This was also when she could start calling big retailers to seek to provide them with her products.
Langa says the challenge was also getting the right clients to sell her pigs to. Some were already full with clients so access to markets was a concern.
“Feed has also been a great challenge. For example, yellow maize is more expensive when you buy in small scale than in bulk,” she explains.
There is no way to enter commercial farming without facing some of these challenges, she says. To make money, one needs to spend money.
Learning from her father
Langa says she looks up to her father who showed her the ropes of farming. As a young woman in farming, she has learned that dedication, hard work and the will to go the extra mile, makes survivial possible in the agriculture industry.
“My dad taught me that not everything in life has to be about you, it is possible to put other people first. When he bought this farm, it was not about him, but about us, and the community we serve.”
“Also, I take inspiration from the likes of Annah Phosa, who was the first woman to be funded by Absa bank to start her piggery business. She is doing well and actually buying from young female farmers who owns farms and farm with pigs,” she shares.
‘Don’t focus on the negative’
Langa urges other young farmers to always draw the positives from whatever negativity they encounter.
“For example, if you’re not getting funding, you need to ask yourself what are you doing that can generate income for yourself to grow, instead of being stressed,” she advises.
Besides selling pork, she trains people to further their development.
“I am basically saying, do not stick to your problems, rather take them and see if you can make something out of it,” she says.
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