Mirriam Kgopa is growing her business with FarmSol

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North West farmer Mirriam Kgopa reinvested the profit from her very first sunflower harvest back into growing her business. In celebration of Youth Month, we feature some of the rising farm stars participating in the FarmSol Youth Ambassador programme. Every Friday, we will introduce you to a different young farmer who has grown their enterprises with the help of the prestigious farmer development programme.

Mirriam Kgopa has always been attracted to farming, and as a young girl it was the very neat and evenly spaced rows of sunflowers that captivated her. She finally got her chance when her father, Joseph Kgopa, purchased a 131ha farm in the Kaalpan region, outside Sannieshof in the North West.

He encouraged her to try her hand at farming, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I started small with a vegetable patch only large enough for household consumption, but soon was hooked. A friend of mine told me about the FarmSol and SAB programme, after which I reached out to them,” Kgopa says.

FarmSol approved a 50 ha sunflower project for Kgopa in 2019, but she ended up only planting 40 ha.

“FarmSol provided a 0% interest production loan, which included planting material, fertiliser and mechanisation. Also, very importantly, we received valuable extension services throughout the entire season. Job Metswamere from FarmSol visited us at least twice a month and we still today sometimes phone one another.”

“The support was great, because it is nerve wracking to take a R500 000 loan and invest it all into seeds you bury under the ground, hoping and praying for a harvest several months down the road,” she recalls.

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Luckily, Kgopa had a great season in 2019. She realised a harvest of 1.6 tonnes per hectare, which not only covered the Farmsol loan, but also yielded some profit for her business which she reinvested. “I want to purchase a new generation tractor, as new technology such as GPS will assist with precisions farming, helping me to be more efficient.”

In 2020 Kgopa once again teamed up with FarmSol, this time to plant 100ha of non-GMO yellow maize. They planted in December 2020, and plan on harvesting towards the end of May.

“The continuous and heavy rains challenged us this season, as it was impossible to enter the fields for spraying. I was concerned that all the fertiliser we applied would be washed away, but at the moment all looks good and I am aiming for a yield of 3.6t/ha to 4.2t/ha. In our area break-even is achieved with a yield of 2.6t/ha, so there should be a profit for reinvesting again.”

At the moment, Kgopa’s future plans include extending her operations to include vegetable farming. She is looking at acquiring more land to realise this goal.

ALSO READ: Mbele expands maize production with FarmSol Boost

Attention to detail

Kgopa says that in agriculture you have to look after the soil and pay attention to details.

“From my dad I have learned to be attuned to the health of soil, as everything else is built on this basic natural resource.

“The most important thing is to start, even if you start small. Start, even if you are still at school.”

“I am a numbers person, and every action on the farm needs to be measured and recorded. It is important to know how much fertiliser you use per hectare every year, because you might want to adjust it for the next season. If you have a tuckshop you cash up every evening, but on a farm this only happens once a year, so record keeping is crucial for management.”

Her message to aspiring young farmers is to stop over-thinking and making excuses, and just start.

“The most important thing is to start, even if you start small. Start, even if you are still at school.”

She continues, “I have learned that even the most advanced theoretical training does not fully prepare you for the day-to-day running of a farm, which is why experienced mentors and neighbouring farmers are so important. Never hesitate to ask, and if you do not understand, ask again!”

Kgopa says that as a woman, she has always experienced support from fellow farmers.

“Sometimes, people are curious why a woman wants to be a farmer, but then they also always inquire if they can be helpful in any way. I am proud to be a woman farmer, and now only wish to have a John Deere tractor – it would be great if they could make it a pink one!”

ALSO READ: Mechanisation: Smallholders can have access to agritech

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