A few years ago, Keotshepile Pelesa started a car wash business with the money he inherited after the death of his father. Unfortunately, the business failed due to stringent lockdown regulations and he took the hard decision to close shop. Instead of giving up, Pelesa reinvigorated his passion for entrepreneurship and turned to small-scale farming after a family friend gifted him with four piglets.
“When the car wash closed, I decided to fully shift my focus to farming,” he says.
However, growing his pig herd became a challenge as Pelesa could not cope with the increasing cost of feed. It was too much to handle for the new farmer.
From pigs to goats and sheep
Even with a cash injection through the Presidential Employment Stimulus (Pesi) voucher, Pelesa still could not keep up with the cost of raising pigs. He eventually gave up, sold the pigs and turned to Boer goats and sheep with grant money from the national youth development agency (NYDA).
Today, he raises his livestock and grows cash crops in Dinokana, a small town in Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality in North West.
He does this on tribal land of about 50 hectares of which 25 hectares remain arable.
An impossible lease agreement
Being young, new in farming and having no ownership of land, often has Pelesa feeling as if the ladder of success is slippery, with new challenges after every climb.
For example, Pelesa has permission to occupy (PTO) the land. But these agreements are only valid for three months at a time, which means that he has to reapply every three months. This unqualifies Pelesa for a bank loan or funding from other institutions.
On top of that, the land is not fenced. Pelesa also does not want to invest in land that is not his, he says.
Pelesa emphasises the difficulties black farmers face in Mzansi, particularly around land ownership.
“Due to the lack of title deeds and security of tenure, black farmers often struggle to access funding and investment.”
Most banks, he says, refuse to fund communal land because they do not have title deeds.
“Without land ownership, it’s challenging to run a successful farm. Water access is another issue, as it’s critical for crop production. Without sufficient water, farmers can’t produce the food needed to support their families and shelves can’t be loaded with [food] as well,” Pelesa says.
Be ready for any challenge
Despite the many challenges, Pelesa looks ahead focusing on his personal development. He has completed a short course programme in small stock and crop production at North West University. This was funded by the provincial department of agriculture.
Pelesa believes that a combination of theory and practice is essential to be successful in farming. He encourages new and small-scale farmers to understand their finances and educate themselves on exports and imports as well.
With his love for farming, Pelesa sees the growth potential and innovation in South Africa’s agricultural sector and hopes to make valuable contributions someday.
“I believe that farming has been a true calling for me. I have been active in farming for the past three years, and unlike other businesses I have pursued, I have never considered leaving it.”
What fuels Pelesa is his passion and willingness to face any challenge head-on. Despite the difficulties and uncertainty that come with farming, Pelesa promises to remain dedicated to his craft and is committed to leaving a legacy that his father would be proud of.
Get Stories of Change: Inspirational stories from the people that feed Mzansi.