For Isaac Khumalo, agriculture is not only a passion he practices in the classroom. He also ensures that the learners under his wing get their hands dirty. This experience with the soil nurtures their relationship with the land.
In fact, Khumalo is hopeful that many of his learners will pursue further studies and careers in agriculture after they’ve matriculated.
This educator from Sehlakwane near Groblersdal in Limpopo also ventured into avocado farming because he believes that agriculture can create jobs while driving the economy. “Not only am I an agricultural teacher but I am also a farmer myself, who believes that farming has great potential for alleviating poverty especially in rural areas like where I am,” he says.
A world of possibilities
By farming on just one hectare, it is possible for Khumalo to become the main employer in his area amid the growing demand for avocados. Previously, he also farmed with other crops which he set aside after realising that only his avocados were economically viable.
His farming journey started two years ago and he has never looked back.
“My wish is to see myself producing about five tonnes of avocados and selling to big markets in my area. Currently, I produce about one to two tonnes, which is only enough to sell to local people in my area as a start,” he explains.
Cracking markets are notoriously difficult and Khumalo has come to learn that farmers have to constantly work on building relationships in order to enlarge your client base.
“The challenge I have picked up is that big markets want trust in you. What this means is that you need to deliver on the agreement between you and them.
“Failure to do that is a huge problem. It is not like big business does not want to give us an opportunity. They need reliability and trust. The market in my area is there, but it needs one to work very hard to prove themselves,” he adds.
Looking to the future
Khumalo admits, however, that he plans of trading teaching for full-time farming one day, but not without having ensured that he transferred his knowledge and passion for agriculture to his learners.
“I have started a food garden at the school where I am teaching, and I can assure you the children love farming. It excites them and they always come out in their numbers to learn what I am teaching. Because of the amount of work that this project with the kids entails, I have dedicated time after school to engage with them and learn as much as possible and they are loving it,” he says.
Khumalo believes educators play an important role in directing learners to their future careers. It is therefore critically important that he ignites their passion to also create further change in their own communities.
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