Farming couple has their eyes set on the beef export market

The farming couple Kabelo and Matshidiso Mooketsi have been farming just over 10 years and they've already made their mark in the agri sector.

“The vision of making a difference and being the change we want to see has kept us going throughout this entire journey, not forgetting the passion we have to our farming enterprise.”

So says Matshidiso Mooketsi, who has been farming with her husband Kabelo close to Lykso village in the North West since 2008.

The pair might be relatively new to farming but it did not deter them from bagging some of the sector’s most respected awards, like the Agricultural Research Council’s National Commercial Best Elite Cow of the Year award in 2015.

The Mooketsis had limited farming experience when they started, but today the couple is dead set on becoming world-class beef exporters and they hope to further contribute to economic development in Mzansi.

The Mooketsis are passionate farmers, even though they have no previous farming experience.

Matshidiso (49) grew up in Vryburg and she vividly remembers how she had to help take care of the livestock when she visited family during school holidays. This unknowingly sparked her interest in agriculture, but little did she know that she would one day become a farmer.

“My parents would take us to spend our school holidays at my mother’s relatives in the rural areas. There I would engage in the herding, milking and counting of small livestock. This became a norm and unknowingly turned me into a farmer years to come,” says Matshidiso.

Kabelo (59) says he, on the other hand, grew up in a farming environment and was surrounded by different crops and cattle for most of his childhood. His passion to be a farmer started at a young age.

“My desires of becoming a farmer has always been in my bloodstream,” says Kabelo.

But before the couple found themselves in the farming industry, they both worked as civil servants. Matshidiso worked for the Department of Home Affairs from 1990 until she decided to resign in 2001. Soon thereafter Kabelo also decided to give up his job at the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality in the Northern Cape.

The two went into business and started a construction company. They then started ploughing their profits into their family farming enterprise, Barui-Driehoek Cooperative. The business mainly specializes in beef cattle production, as well as eggs and vegetables.

In 2008, the Mooketsis started off on communal land with 24 Nguni cattle, sponsored to them by the North West Provincial Department of Agriculture and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). “The condition was that eleven heifers plus one bull be returned at the end of the five-year development programme. Our contract came to an end in 2013, proving that we honored our commitment,” Kabelo says.

The Mooketsis were awarded the Agricultural Research Council’s National Commercial Best Elite Cow of the Year award in 2015.

After going through an extensive process, the couple were able to acquire the Driehoek farm in 2011, through the PLAS programme of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Matshidiso added, “We also sold our beautiful house in Vryburg so that we can become full-time farm dwellers and look after our livestock properly, and to run our farming enterprise accordingly.” They have since decided to move away from the Nguni cattle and now only focus on Bonsmara.

“We farm with quality Bonsmara cattle. They are bred and sold to formal and informal markets. Our layer [hens] enterprise has gained momentum, and we are currently experiencing high demand for our eggs exceeds supply. This demonstrates there is room for expansion,” Kabelo explained.

“We’ve become full-time farm dwellers to look after our livestock properly, and to run our farming enterprise accordingly,” says Matshidiso

The vision of their family farming business is to contribute to the economic development of the area by creating a viable and sustainable farming business with livestock, beef and egg laying hens. In addition to this, the Mooketsis wants to improve the living standard of the farm workers and the local people by addressing food security.

“We also want to increase the extent to which black farmers own and manage the farm business, their access to economic activities, infrastructure and skills training.”

The Mooketsis are mostly definitely an example of “couple goals”. They both have their respective responsibilities and work together as a unit. Matshidiso is responsible for most of the administration and technical handling of livestock, while Kabelo oversees the farm infrastructure.

Part of the Mooketsi family business’s responsibilities are shared by their only child, Lesego (29). She runs the family’s construction company, which was transferred to her as a way of keeping a workable succession plan.

Lesego and her late husband Moses Mohlala

In April of this year the Mooketsis endured a devastating setback. Lesego’s husband Moses Mohlala passed away in a car accident in Pretoria, leaving behind his wife and their two young children.

“We are so devastated by his passing, since we had many dreams of growing our farming business to greater heights, ensuring at the same time that the little ones’ futures are well secured,” says a grieving Matshidiso.

The family will continue to work on these dreams, even though they have suffered a great loss. Their work has been honoured with several sought-after awards such as the 2012 ARC National Emerging beef farmer of the year and Matshidiso’s 2017 ARC National Small-Scale Commercial Beef Producer of the year.

They have learnt that hard work does pay off. It is just a matter of passion, commitment and determination. They look forward to commercializing their breeding stock and to become one of Mzansi’s finest beef producers.

Excited about what the future holds, Kabelo added: “Being awarded the 2017 National ARC Small-Scale Commercial Beef Producer accolade speaks volumes. Our dream of becoming beef exporters is starting to unfold. Watch this space…”