As a farmer, how many times in a day does your phone have to ring before you start moaning and groaning that you have to answer it? Well, for livestock farmer Duncan Serapelwane, this is no biggie.
In fact, he loves it.
“My phone is constantly ringing with young people looking for advice. But I don’t mind, mentorship is very important. When you’re a farmer, you will always need somebody that is an expert in a particular field to assist you,” he says.
This 53-year-old North West farmer says despite never wanting to become a farmer, he enjoys seeing the success and growth in someone he had the opportunity to mentor.
Serapelwane is an award-winning commercial farmer operating on 625 hectares of land in Morokweng, 136 km outside Vryburg. He also farms on 2 850 hectares in the Kgalagadi, where he runs his stud, Moalosi Bonsmara, comprising of 300 cows and five bulls.
Being a great mentor
While most of his time is spent doing practical, hands-on work on his two farms, a large part of his day is dedicated to mentoring young farmers and sharpening their skills.
Serapelwane does not believe that all farmers were born that way. While some of Mzansi’s younger food producers would argue that farming is in their blood, he believes that today’s generation do not exactly understand what they’re saying.
He explains, “When you start a new job, there’s something called a probation period in which they brush up your knowledge and teach you how things are done. The same goes for farming, even though you might have inherited a few hectares from your father, the skills you might have, need sharpening.”
Serapelwane reckons mentorship has become even more important now that the department of agriculture, land reform, and rural development are financing farmers and giving land away.
“It’s a lot of money and responsibility that they are entrusting in the hands of our black farmers. There needs to be someone who mentors these people,” he says.
Serapelwane has even won an award for his mentorship qualities. He was announced as the Farmers Weekly and SA Stud Book Elite 2021 mentor breeder of the year.
His natural ability to pour into others stems from his days as a North West teacher.
After completing his high school career, he obtained his teaching diploma and practiced for seven months. Thereafter he joined the consumer council of Botswana as an education officer.
Mentor’s winding road to agri
Reflecting on his life as a farmer, Serapelwane states that it would be unrecognisable to his past self.
“Initially I never wanted to become a farmer. When I completed my teachers’ diploma, I wanted to go into accounting. At some stage I even wanted to be in the police force or army,” he laughs.
When he grew tired of the education system, he decided to open and run his own chain of tuck-shops. This only kept him happy for about two years until he returned to the nine to five life working as a bank broker. His role was to sell insurance policies from different companies through the bank.
‘My ideology is that the more I share, the more I become blessed.’
However, after exploring the real, underlying reasons why he was unhappy, Serapelwane decided that it was time to leave formal employment.
He resigned on 1 March 2002 after having worked there exactly twelve months, and slowly immersed himself into agriculture.
‘We never went to bed hungry’
Some would say that his transition into agriculture was bound to happen.
“You must understand I was born into a family of farmers. My father was a farmer, but just like me he did so many other things. He did welding work and also made donkey carts which sold at a good price.
“Sometimes people would not have money, so they would pay him with goats, sheep and cows instead. That is how he started farming,” Serapelwane recalls.
Referring to his parents, he says they are his heroes and greatest inspiration.
“They raised six children on farming. I don’t remember us ever going to bed with an empty stomach. There was always meat, eggs or chicken. That’s why as a farmer you will always have something to eat,” he says.
While the commercial farmer is still hard at work realising his agri goals, he promises to continue investing his knowledge into others.
When asked what mentor’s advice he has for Food For Mzansi’s farmers, Serapelwane said he wants farmers to understand that farming is pretty much like a marriage.
“You only marry the woman you like or love. That is why you should not farm with something you don’t like. You cannot farm with Nguni cattle if it’s not close to your heart. You would not know what you are doing, it’s like you’re an agricultural prostitute,” he explains laughing.