If you look for Limpopo farmer Dr Vusi Khosa, you are likely to find him in the fields of not one, not two, but three of his tomato farms in Giyani, Limpopo. On these farms, Khosa harvests up to five tonnes of tomatoes almost every day of the week.
But when Khosa is away from the farms, you’ll find him adorned in scrubs and caring for patients as a medical practitioner at Sekororo Hospital, near Tzaneen. He also stands in for doctors at Netcare Pholoso Hospital in Polokwane.
Working in two industries, both with inhumane hours and unrelenting workloads, is no easy feat. But Khosa is extremely passionate about everything he does and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Follow your passion,” he says. “Put in the work and be willing to learn, you can’t learn everything in one day, so you need patience.
“When you do something, don’t have thoughts that it could fail.”
“It’s challenging juggling life as a farmer and doctor. When I’m not at the farm, I miss it. I just want to be on the farm and nowhere else. But it can get quite difficult when there’s three farms that you have to check up on,” Dr Khosa laughs.
Running three farms
The 38-year-old’s farms are located in a rural farming area and all trade under one company name, Khoseni Group Holdings.
His biggest farm is 10 hectares in size and produces hot peppers, green peppers as well as tomatoes. It is there, where Khosa’s agricultural journey began. For years, his father, Mdungazi Josias Khosa, worked this land tirelessly
The second largest farm, just over two kilometers away from his home, is 6.8 hectares in size. There, tomatoes, as well as a variety of hot peppers is grown. About 3.5 hectares of this land is not in use, but Khosa plans to extend farming activities onto the remaining hectares soon.
At 2.5 hectares, Khosa’s third farm is the smallest. The land is predominately used to produce morogo, green peppers, okra and, on occasion, tomatoes as well. This farm is the closest to Khosa’s family home, which he explains is fitted with four boreholes in the backyard.
In total Khosa’s business provides employment for 65 people every day. He says these workers are crucial to producing up to 2 000 tonnes of tomatoes every year.
“To think, I didn’t like it [agriculture]. I never liked it but that was only because I didn’t understand it,” he says.
Chased by a tired cow
Khosa remembers being woken by his father at 05:00 to go to the maize fields when he was a boy. There, they would spend hours and only return home at 17:00.
His father also worked in another industry, like Khosa does today. For years, he worked as a truck driver, but developed health problems with his legs and decided to take an early retirement. This was his opportunity to dedicate more time to the family farm.
According to Khosa, back then they were using cows to plough the land.
“There was this one cow, when it was tired it would chase us,” Khosa recalls.
However, later one realises that with more industry knowledge and experience it becomes easier. Then as a farmer, you become more innovative, Khosa explains.
Life as a doctor
Khosa studied medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand and completed his degree in 2008.
All his studies, he says, were financed through sponsorship. While Khosa jokes that he would not consider himself a clever kid at school, he admits that he did quite well with mathematics and science subjects.
“My dad used to be a very proud man, but smart too. He could mainly teach us to work harder than ordinary, to make it. Medicine is just hard work, if you never read it, you will never know it,” Khosa explains.
Khosa only really sunk his claws into the farming industry after his father’s passing in 2016. He took over and gradually expanded the farming business.
Working in two industries, Khosa admits, can become taxing. However, he has a great support system. Everyone on the farm knows what’s expected of them, he says.
“It’s still important that I go to the farms myself because if I ask my workers how things are on the farm, they may only tell me the good side. As a farmer I need to check on things myself as well,” he emphasises.
“When they [workers] do something right I celebrate and encourage them. You must make them feel part of the business. They must know that when things are not done right than the business struggles and it impacts everyone, not just me,” says Khosa.
Africa needs food
Speaking on what the future holds, Khosa says he feels as though they still have a long way to go. However, Khoseni Group’s aim is to reach as many Africans as possible.
“If you look at Africa as a continent, food insecurity remains a huge problem. Meanwhile the population keeps growing. So, food production must proportionately grow and that’s not happening because it’s expensive to produce food,” he points out.
His goal is huge and scares him, but baby steps are required, Khosa admits. For now, he only does what they can afford to.