Kgaugelo Thosago, a crop and livestock farmer from Polokwane, Limpopo, was raised by teachers and grandparents who were farmers and backyard farmers. Today, he is the director of Shiira Boerdery and Stud, a farming business that is shaking up Limpopo’s agricultural sector in a big way.
He plants cocktail tomatoes, spinach, and cabbage on a 9.2-hectare plot. Shiira Boerdery and Stud also have a livestock unit focusing on Kalahari red goats, White Dorper sheep, pigs, and rabbits on 10 hectares of land.
Learning the basics of farming
“My grandfather had land that he could use, and he owned livestock. When we were growing up, the destination was his place in Mohlajeng village. I became accustomed to farm life there,” Thosago recalls.
“In the mornings, we would join him and enjoy watching the cows. We also could be involved with the field work during the rainy seasons. That was my first glimpse at agriculture. I liked it.”
When he was at home with his grandmother in Mankweng, she would talk to him about taking care of crops and how to maintain them. From her side, he gained an understanding of primary agriculture from a subsistence farming view.
During his final year at university where he studied economics, he took a six-month break and went back home to assist his retired mother who just bought a 10-hectare farm.
“So, I joined them and started learning. My mom didn’t have a technical background, but I had some, and it was easy for me to understand how the irrigation system works and how to set a structure. I started learning basic practices like planting.
“When we started, my uncle used to help them out, and he used to do a lot of inspections. He had retired, so he also started farming,” says Thosago.
A hand in multiple businesses
An entrepreneur at heart, Thosaga started selling agricultural services by hiring tractors and doing land preparations for farmers in 2014. Thereafter, a manufacturing company followed which manufactured liquid fertilisers.
In 2015, he started a transport company. However, this busy bee stopped working and started managing his family plot. During this time Thosago and cousin Tshepiso Madiga started a stock breeding company, Shiira Boerdery, and bought Kalahari red goats, pigs, and Dorper sheep.
The year 2022 was a major highlight for them when Shiira Boerdery was awarded the Elite Bronze Medal for small-stock farming by Logix SA Studbook.
Not the final destination
Apart from being a farmer, Thosago is also the provincial chairperson of the national task team for Youth In Agriculture in Rural Development in Limpopo.
“We are trying to bring awareness and increase the interest of youth in the agricultural sector. We are doing so without strictly focusing on primary agriculture because that seems to be the one thing that everybody is looking at and it keeps them from looking at the rest of agriculture and the whole value chain,” he shares.
For Thosago, the journey only stops when he has been able to fully make an impact in agriculture by assisting farmers to make use of the different opportunities and not only focusing on primary agriculture.
“We are all involved in primary or business management in agriculture, but not with the same people. You can be a poultry farmer and sell straight into the street, but when you make the correct connections, you can find yourself supplying a commercial buyer or a small retailer at first.
“It’s all integrated, and you always need to know people who have had different opportunities, and I am always looking to discover some people and see how to spread out.”
Strategic approach in farming
Branching into agriculture as an economics student was intentional and strategic, Thosago says. It’s all about mixing the two.
When he sees agricultural produce, at first glance he sees a number, which is ideal in economics. From there, he calculates certain steps that can improve and increase those numbers. What matters to him is commercialising, and it’s more beneficial to do so with surrounding farmers.
“It’s a numbers game for business success. When I got into agriculture, I managed to sell inputs, and I looked at the value-adds.
“Everything I look at, I try to see if I can commercialise it or not. And when I joined agriculture, I could see a lot of gaps, and I saw where farmers lacked,” he says.
“I realised that most farmers are not sure about what they are doing, and they are not confident about asking, so what I learned at school is also applicable in agriculture because you start seeing the different opportunities.”
Conquering the challenges
Getting to where he is now was not all smooth sailing, but a journey that needed him to humble himself and seek knowledge from his predecessors. This meant moving around and asking for help.
“If I see a farmer good at something, I take the time to sit with them and ask questions and learn from them as well. I do this with every chance that I get.”
This mindset helped him work around the lack of knowledge challenge, which he believes most start-up farmers struggle with.
“I was a young person then, and the elderly around me were willing to share their knowledge with me and help me with the steps needed.
“The biggest challenge was access to information. You have land, water, and electricity, but you don’t know what to do. So if there is no one to guide you on that, you’ll likely not succeed,” Thosago says.
Fortunately for him, with his connections, he was able to accumulate information that helped him make smart and calculated decisions.
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