“If you look [after] nature, it looks [after] you. If you don’t look after it, it will hurt you; it will take you out.” These words by CD du Toit, a trailblazer in conservation agriculture, encapsulate the very essence of his remarkable journey.
Du Toit’s story begins against the backdrop of a farm east of Riversdale in the Southern Cape, nestled against the mountain. He acquired this land in 1992, embarking on a journey that would change not only his life but also the landscape itself.
From the outset, his approach to agriculture was different. While many saw the land merely as a resource to exploit, he saw it as a delicate ecosystem that required careful nurturing. His journey led him to become a qualified soil expert, deeply immersed in understanding the intricacies of soil biology and the delicate balance of carbon levels.
Conservation agriculture – the only way forward
For Du Toit, there was never an alternative path; conservation agriculture was the only way forward. “The agricultural experts who help SSK’s conservation farmers all have their lands in good balance. I have a great passion for land,” he declares.
His passion for conservation agriculture found a fertile ground in this relatively high-rainfall district, a stark contrast to the dry landscapes he had previously worked on. This region, he discovered, offered the opportunity to enhance soil quality and maintain its health, regardless of varying weather patterns.
“I actually moved here because of the rain,” he reveals, reflecting on his choice to cultivate in this lush environment.
Importance of soil health
In a world where profit often takes precedence over sustainability, Du Toit’s approach is a breath of fresh air. He practises conservation agriculture primarily by sowing cash crops and reserving a portion of his land for grazing ostriches. It’s a carefully thought-out strategy that balances profitability with environmental responsibility.
“[Whether] you are a cattle or grain farmer, you really have to understand soil. A cattle farmer whose soil is not right is not going to be successful. You have to get the ground right first,” CD emphasises, highlighting the importance of soil health as the foundation of agricultural success.
Balancing the calcium-magnesium ratio in the soil, implementing crop rotation, and preserving the moisture content in his fields are all part of Du Toit’s meticulous approach. His dedication to nurturing the land has resulted in the soil so fertile that it effortlessly absorbs moisture, a testament to the thriving underground ecosystem he has cultivated.
Beyond his innovative farming techniques, his commitment to conservation extends to the preservation of native wildlife. His efforts have led to the resurgence of bushbuck, rhebok, duiker, grysbok, and even kudus in the region, reaffirming that when nature is respected, it thrives.
Brighter future ahead
As the region embraces conservation farming practices, Du Toit envisions a brighter future. He dreams of a day when organic material in the soil reaches 6%, a level that would not only facilitate carbon capture but also secure sustainable profitability for farmers.
His message to fellow farmers is clear: “You just need to start”, and his story serves as a powerful testament to the potential of conservation agriculture.
Du Toit stands as an inspirational figure, showing us that it is possible to cultivate both land and prosperity while preserving the delicate balance of nature. His journey is a beacon of hope, guiding us towards a more sustainable and harmonious future with the land that sustains us all.
- Tune in for Food For Mzansi and SSK’s brand-new Farming with nature television series, airing from Monday, 18 September to Sunday, 1 October at 19:30 on People°s Weather, DStv channel 180 and Openview channel 115. There is also a repeat broadcast at 21:00 on the same evening. For a comprehensive weekend catch-up, stay tuned for the omnibus edition airing on both Saturdays and Sundays. Click here to view the full program.
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