Every Friday, we feature one of the rising farm stars participating in the FarmSol Youth Ambassador programme. This week, we travel to the Free State to meet father-and-son team Lehotla and Morapidi Makoele, who are continuing their family legacy.
Lehotla Makoele learned to farm from his father. And now he is passing his farming skills down to his son, Morapidi.
Growing up, 73-year-old Lehotla Makoele was the son of a farmworker. “My father was a farmworker and I remember as a child how they ploughed with oxen and harvested wheat by hand with a scythe,” he says.
He remembers his father as a hard-working man who made sure that his family earned the rights to work a small, four morgen (about 3.5 hectares) piece of land for themselves. “This is where my love for farming was born.”
Lehotla spent the 1970s and 1980s in Lesotho, but returned in 1987 when the opportunity to rent a farm in the part of the Free State, which then still the self-governing homeland QwaQwa, came about.
“I rented 365ha and in 1995 the Land Bank made it possible for me to get a loan and purchase the land. I have since paid the outstanding amount and here I am today. I am an old man, but a landowner in Kestell!” he says.
Lehotla’s son Morapidi inherited his father’s love for farming, which is why he returned to the farm after finishing school in 2012. “I love everything about farming, but if I had to choose, I would say my passion is with field crops,” the younger Makoele says.
Morapidi says his dad is a very disciplined man, and he has instilled the same work ethics in him. “We work very hard on our farm. We get up early in the morning and work seven days a week.”
Growing through FarmSol
In 2019, the Makoeles approached FarmSol through a contact they have at Grain SA. Their application for a no-interest production loan was approved for 100ha of non-GMO yellow maize in 2020.
Lehotla says the fact that FarmSol provides interest-free loans is what really makes the difference. “Many institutions ask an arm and a leg in interest repayments, and this can result in you not making any profits,” he says.
Morapidi says, “One advantage we have is the fact that we have our own mechanisation, we only rent a combine harvester for the maize.”
Their endeavours have not been without challenges, however.
“We had so much rain that many of our fields were too waterlogged for crops. We had to select the drier areas, and eventually could only plant 57 hectares,” Lehotla says.
The Makoeles are positive about the crop on the land and expect a yield of six tonnes per hectare.
Morapidi says another challenge they face, perhaps their biggest challenge, is climate change. This has a direct impact on their farming activities. “Droughts, floods and erratic weather patterns are of great concern to me.”
Like his father, he also is concerned about the size of their farm. “In the future I would like to purchase more land when the right opportunity comes along,” he says.
Morapidi has the following advice for any young person thinking about becoming a farmer: “Farming is hard work, and you must do it because you love it. There is no easy money in farming; you become profitable only if you put hard work into it.
“You must also be aware of all the potential risks that can make things go wrong. The weather can turn, and there is always the risk of fire. A lot can happen during one season!”
Looking to the future, the Makoeles would like to continue their relationship with FarmSol and South African Breweries. “We want to plant more yellow maize, and we are currently searching for additional land to make this possible,” Lehotla says.