It was Chiloane Mahlatse‘s grandmother who first introduced him to farming. Today, in Moloro village, next to Acorn Hoek in Mpumalanga, he cultivates 0.5 acres. Getting started was a breeze, he says, because he had no choice but to take it seriously as growing food determines what is on his next plate and whether or not he achieves his long-term goals.
Mahlatse has been growing a wide range of produce including spinach, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, and chilies since 2020.
“These farming skills were passed down to me from my late grandmother. Melons, groundnuts, sugarcane, and cassava were among the many crops she once grew on her ranch.”
He also says that he would feel guilty if he didn’t carry on his grandmother’s legacy.
“She liked being outdoors in a natural setting. She always stressed the importance of growing your own organic produce.”
Inspired by serving his community
Farming, according to Mahlatse, is a difficult job like any other. He believes that it requires someone who pays close attention to every detail.
“As a child, I was attracted to touring and adventure, and I aspired to be a tour guide, but, over time farming won my heart.”
He also mentions how fortunate he is to have the land he inherited from his grandmother. Mahlatse makes his own fertiliser to enrich his soil, and credits Google and fellow farmers on social media.
“Life in rural areas becomes expensive when residents have to travel just to buy necessities. I deliver now that I have this business, and they are pleased. I consider myself fortunate to be of assistance to them.”
One of the most difficult aspects of being a farmer and a youngster is deciding whether to invest in friends or your business, he says.
“I’ve found that the best way to do it right is to be on my farm so I can spot when something isn’t right. I’m in business for myself and myself only. As a result, if I don’t pay attention, I won’t grow.”
Taking it one obstacle at a time
Mahlatse tells Food for Mzansi that there was a period when he felt as though he was wasting his time, when he faced water challenges in Moloro village, and when his crops were consumed by bristles.
“I opted for drip irrigation. Because drip irrigation is effective and offers good yields, especially if liquid fertilisers are used, as well as the fact that the water droplets penetrate directly to the roots and utilise 2 litres of water per hour.”
He says that drip irrigation helps him save water and irrigates his crops more efficiently.
“I want to expand my farming operations if I am able to save more money. I also want to raise livestock and employ other young people who are interested in the farming industry.”
Among the obstacles he has encountered thus far is powdery mildew, especially in spinach.
“I utilise a natural remedy to treat the problem as well as the cutworm. If you plant the same crop on the same piece of land or block, the worms will use that crop, so you must plant new crops, such as onions. Onions are the most powerful weapon on my farm since they can protect your crops from pests and worms.”
Marketing strategy ensures success
He supplies Roots shop, Lebamba Supermarket, and Makhoma Supermarket with goods.
“Farming teaches communication skills. While I was farming mainly spinach, I observed that there was a shortage of vegetables in the supermarket. I then approached the managers with a reasonable price proposal which they accepted. I have never looked back since.”
He adds that farming not only creates food, but also mitigates climate change.
“I want to see myself growing in this farming world, which also offers job chances for other young people. If I could get sufficient capital, I could even engage in perennial farming initiatives.
He believes that any industry requires dedication, and accumulating money does not happen overnight. Another strategy is to surround yourself with people who share your drive for achievement, he advises.
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