Free State farmer’s 21st birthday gift yields success

Makhosana Mtambo (26) believes his Vrede farm can create generational wealth

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A 26-year-old Free State farmer has managed to create a profitable business out of a mammoth piece of land he received as a gift for his 21st birthday. Joseph Makhosana Mtambo’s gift spans 710 hectares and has gone on to birth his very own livestock farming business, Mtambo Boerdery, in 2011.

Realizing the need to secure generational wealth and building a legacy, Mtambo’s grandfather Samuel, and his father, Jabu, bought the farm situated on a plot in Vrede in 1999.

Raised in Three Rivers in Gauteng’s Vaal triangle, the young farmer says he developed a deep-seated love for animals and the “farm boy lifestyle”, through his grandfather’s influence.

“He birthed my passion for farming and then my dad watered it. In 2014 I started pursuing my own farm on my own scale, and that was the beginning of my journey in agriculture.”

The farm was gifted to Mtambo 13 years later in celebration of his 21st birthday in 2011. Having been exposed to the industry so early in life, he says what further pushed him into the field were the infinite horizons in agriculture.

“You need food, you need to wear clothes and all these things and this comes from agriculture. We are able to live because of the produce from farms.”

Farming with livestock, Mtambo Boerdery boasts 148 hectares of arable land, 518 hectares of grazing, including 12 grazing camps and a stream which supplies water around the farm. He has also reserved a 1 hectare vegetable garden where he plants between five and six tons of spinach and six to seven tons of pumpkin.

Firmly rooted in youth development Mtambo Boerdery employs seven youth between the ages of 18 and 35. His operations thrive with no formal market. As it stands Mtambo sells his produce at auctions and the local butchery. Although the enterprise flourishes today, Mtambo says his journey has not been easy.

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“The farm has dilapidated infrastructure, water systems need fixing, borehole pumps need to be updated and arable land is currently not in use due to lack of mechanization,” he explains.

Mtambo shares his key insights on the farming industry at the annual ANAT Farmer's Youth Indaba
Mtambo shares his key insights on the farming industry at the annual ANAT Farmer’s Youth Indaba.

Like many farmers facing similar challenges, he says this could be solved by assistance from government. But this self-funded farmer has opted to go ahead and build the enterprise out of his own pocket and managed to turn his first profit after three years.

“There is a saying that goes, ‘Being born poor can be your parents fault, but dying poor is your choice.’ We, as a people, have a choice. We have the freedom to decide to take this route and reap the fruits of our hard work.”

Mtambo says there is  misconception amongst youth that the agricultural industry is glamorous and yields high profits. He says although this may be the case it takes blood, sweat and tears to turn a profit in the sector.

“In this industry you work Monday to Monday. You don’t have off days. If they (the youth) can apply that mentality they will prosper. You don’t get a month-end salary. It comes with waiting.”

He also adds that his success stems from grit and a solid work ethic instilled in him from a young age. “Passion counts. You mustn’t do something because you are filling in a gap, but the mere fact that when you love something it automatically loves you back, but if you are doing it because you want money and you are hungry looking at the short term aspects and there is no passion, there won’t be any vision or mission that will be accomplished.”

Mtambo’s business sense is firmly founded on food security.The young farmer has dreams of one day being the number one source of sustenance in his community.

“When you do your research it tells us by 2050 South Africa will reach food insecurity due to lack of production. For the sake of the next generation, I have decided and said I am going to continue to ensure that people in my community and the country don’t go to sleep with empty stomachs. Our work as agriculturalist is reaching food security is for the future of generation.”

Mtambo has future plans in place to utilize the available arable land on his farm by planting larger crops of vegetables. He also has hopes of expanding into dairy production and employing more local youth.

“It’s all in the mindset. I’ve told myself that even one day when I have children I would not let them go any other direction except for this one. The legacy that I am building from the foundations of my grandfather and my father are for generational wealth purposes,” he concludes.

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