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Free State farmer’s journey from hardship to inspiration

In episode 7 of the agriculture TV show 'Vir die liefde van die land' we meet Daniel Maqala (59), who funded his farming venture with his two taxis

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What does it take to become a successful, black livestock farmer? In the case of 59-year-old farmer Daniel Maqala the answer is hard work, solid business decisions spread over decades of time, and the friendly support of a mentor.

This week, in a not-to-be-missed episode of the agriculture TV show, Vir die liefde van die land (For the love of the land), fans of the show are introduced to Maqala, who farms in Ficksburg in the Free State. He breeds cattle, sheep and goats and grows asparagus on two pieces of land, De Hoop-plaas and Kosmos farm.

The hosts of the show, Ivor Price, co-founder of Food For Mzansi, and Piet Potgieter, manager for developing agriculture at the VKB Group, recently visited his farms and uncovered a rags-to-riches story of note.

The agri show celebrates South Africa’s unsung heroes of agriculture and is in full swing on VIA, DStv channel 147. Every Thursday at 18:00 a new episode airs with further repeats on Fridays at 00:00 and 06:00 and Sundays at 20:00.

From hardship to beacon of inspiration

In the show, viewers learn how Maqala was able to acquire two farms despite never having completed his primary or high school education.

Mentor, Francios Crause.
Maqala’s mentor, Francois Crause. Photo: WYRD Films

The farmer can be heard explaining how, after the passing of his father in 1973, the family’s living conditions became very difficult and he was forced to leave school. “We struggled at home. Life was difficult and no one was working in our home,” he says.

In search of a better life, Maqala moved to Gauteng in 1981 in pursuit of better opportunities. There, he worked as a transport driver and did an odd job every now and then. In 1986, he finally returned to his birthplace in the Free State to start his own taxi business.

In the episode, Maqala shares how he was able to get his agri career underway with money earned from his taxi business and where his love for agriculture comes from.  Viewers also learn about the difficult road he had to travel and the many challenges he had to overcome.

Giepie Graffert, grain marketing manager at VKB.
Giepie Graffert, grain marketing manager at VKB. Photo: WYRD films

Acknowledged as a forward-thinking farmer by his friends and colleagues, Maqala believes that his success would not be possible without the help of his mentor and friend, Francois Crause.

Crause, who is also a farmer in the area, says that there is no better feeling than helping Maqala grow his business from nothing.

“Daniel takes in everything and he is always hungry for knowledge. He wants to get the job done in the right way and is always looking for new technologies and ideas. Even though he is almost 60, he is still a young emerging farmer who still wants to work,” Crause says.

VKB helps overcome farming challenges

Later in the show, viewers meet Giepie Graffert, grain marketing manager at VKB. He says that new farmers encounter many challenges with pricing and do not always understand the market.

“Despite the challenges, VKB has mechanisms in place to overcome these challenges. We group the small farmers’ tonnes together… and we also provide the smallholder farmers with daily market information and communicate with them on different platforms,” Graffert says.

The episode featuring Maqala airs Thursday, 19 November at 18:00 on VIA, DStv channel 147 with further repeats on Fridays at 00:00 and 06:00 and Sundays at 20:00.

Duncan Masiwa
Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.
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