Every Friday, we feature one of the rising farm stars participating in the FarmSol Youth Ambassador programme. This week, we travel to Mpumalanga to meet Mduduzi Mnisi, a young farmer who has grown his enterprises with the help of the prestigious farmer development programme.
Mduduzi Mnisi says that new farmers should first learn on a small farm before making big and expensive mistakes. Growing up in Breyton, Mpumalanga, Mduduzi Mnisi learned to farm from his mother, Irene Thole. “We used to grow sugar beans on a small, one hectare piece of land,” the FarmSol-supported farmer says.
He ventured into farming on his own in 2010 when, with the help of the department of agriculture, he managed to plant 10ha of sugar beans. To bolster his business, Mnisi then became part of a farming cooperative where they managed to plant 30ha of sugar beans together with other crops as a mixed farming operation. “I stayed with the cooperative until 2018, after which I ventured out on my own.”
His farming journey moved to the next level once FarmSol partnered with him, Mbele says. “My maize yield in 2018 was 3.5 tonnes per hectare, but it improved to 4.5 tonnes per hectare in 2019.”
Mnisi is currently renting two farms in Breyten, which gives him access to 150ha of land.
He says although mechanisation is a serious challenge for him, he has his own no-till planter and boom spray. “I was fortunate in having a supportive neighbour, Corné Baard, in 2018. Corné believed in my potential as a new commercial farmer, and as he was exiting farming at that time, he sold some of his large farm implements to me.”
Expanding further with FarmSol
When Mnisi learned about FarmSol and the support they offer to new farmers, in partnership with South African Breweries (SAB), he applied immediately. His application to be part of the programme was approved and FarmSol assisted him with an interest free production loan for inputs, mechanisation and extension support.
With FarmSol’s help, he was able to establish 84ha of yellow maize on contract for SAB.
“The financial support from FarmSol enabled me to significantly expand my production. I used to plant 30ha of sugar beans or soybeans. Through FarmSol, I have been able to add the yellow maize on top of that.”
Mnisi is overjoyed with the expansion of his business into maize, as he adheres to a mixed farming business model. “If you have several different crops, you can spread the risk in case one of them fails for whatever reason.”
In addition to field crops, Mnisi also keeps a herd of 90 Bonsmara cattle that is grazed on natural vegetation. “I sell the three-year-old bulls to add to my farming income,” he says.
Not all smooth sailing
Mnisi’s biggest challenge is access to land. “If you are renting land, you are constantly worrying about whether leases will be extended or renewed, especially if these are short, year-on-year leases. This makes it very difficult to make long-term plans, and it prevents you from investing in much needed infrastructure,” he says.
He is, however, positive about his new yellow maize crop for this season. “Unlike many other farmers, I was fortunate to not have had any flooding problems this season. I am hoping for a yield of between 5t/ha and 6t/ha,” he says.
For Mnisi, the partnership with FarmSol continues to feature in his short-term agriculture plans. “For next year, I am planning to continue working with FarmSol, and would like to plant 150ha yellow maize in combination with 50ha of soybeans.”
Mduduzi Mnisi’s advice to young, aspiring farmers:
“Farming is a complex combination of various activities, with many factors playing a role. You need to manage inputs such as chemicals, implements and fuel. You have to combine all these different aspects to produce a quality crop, which can then be sold at a profit after many months of hard work. Farming is a work in process.
“I started out on just one hectare. I see young people wanting farms of 100ha to start with, but with big farms come big problems. Starting small will prepare you and allow you to make mistakes, which you cannot afford on a large farm.”