Tumisang Ben Matshogo is a North West farmer who has always had his eyes forward and his mind focussed and ready to take on the world despite countless uphill battles. Both his parents are unemployed and he has been the sole bread winner in his family since 2012.
Today the 30-year-old from Driefontein is the proud owner of two farming businesses while doing his PhD degree in animal science.
“When I tell you that my journey has been tough, it’s the truth,” Matshogo says. “But I have always known that my current situation does not determine my future. I just have to keep pushing, that’s all.”
He remembers going to school with only R1 in his pocket. While others were having skaftin (lunch box) with food from last night I could only afford a biscuit or chips and drink water.”
Being the first born at home, he felt that it was his duty to change their situation. However, young Matshogo had sleepless nights worrying whether he would qualify for a bursary should the time come.
“But by the mercy of God in my grade twelve year my mother’s employers suggested that I apply for varsity and offered to pay the application fee. At the time my father lost his job, so it was tough.” Matshogo’s mother worked as a domestic worker and his father was a farm worker.
Matshogo was accepted and started his studies with a NSFAS bursary and later also a bursary from the National Research Foundation. He is also the first in his family to go to university. Matshogo has since progressed in his study of animal science to where he is currently completing his PhD at the North-West University.
“With agriculture I know I am on the right train,” Matshogo firmly believes.
In 2012, his mom lost her job and Matshogo’s responsibility to his family intensified. “I had to stand in and help where he could. I would send food vouchers home which I got as part of my bursary.”
He also lost his brother in a car accident and had to finance the funeral.
In 2017 Matshogo was in his final year of doing his Master’s degree when he decided to try his hand at farming. He says one of the reasons why he started farming was because he was worried that he would not get a job after graduating. And that is exactly how it turned out.
He started with only four cattle. Over the years he has grown his herd to 34, supplying cattle for weddings, funerals, traditional ceremonies and rituals where families require a cow to slaughter.
“Farming is in my blood,” he proudly exclaims. “It is who I am. My grandfather, after who I am named, was a farmer too. I realised that although maybe he was not working; he was able to survive through his farming activities.”
Matshogo farms on shared land of about 870 hectares. The communal space shared with six other farmers is divided into camps of which Matshogo occupies nine. He hopes to have 40 cows by next year.
“With agriculture I know I am on the right train. People need to eat, and it is a large contributor to South Africa’s economy, so I have no need to pursue anything else.”
His persistence has also birthed a poultry house in Driefontein which he started in 2019. The poultry business functions as a cooperative with four members selling broilers and live chickens.
Last year they ran into some trouble with the chicken business and Matshogo learned a big lesson.
“The suppliers from who we bought did not vaccinate the chicks after we ordered them. They later died and we had to get rid of them. We had to start from scratch,” he exclaims.
Matshogo still has his eye set firmly on the future. Although he has only been farming for a few years, he plans to have achieved commercial status within the next decade.
“It’s possible,” he asserts. “I have overcome so much, I know I can do it.”