It is a Monday morning, at 04:50. While many South Africans are still deep in sleep’s embrace, Olerile Lekgetho (35) has just shovelled down a hearty breakfast and is ready to hit the ground running for yet another unpredictable day on his 666-hectare North West farm.
A year ago, this farm was just a pipe dream. For years the young farmer had farmed on communal lands in his birth town of Taung side by side with his grandfather, Frasier Lekgetho (89).
In 2019 he entered into a 30-year lease agreement with the state and today he runs a livestock and vegetable farm, Amantsi Trading, in Lykso.
Sun barely peeping through the clouds, Lekgetho makes his way towards the farm he proudly claims as his own on the N14 between Kuruman and Vryburg.
His mind is riddled with thoughts surrounding the possibilities of what the day may hold.
“Will it rain today?”
“Do I need more feed?”
“Are there still the same amount of cattle I tallied yesterday?” he wonders.
“Every day is a busy day,” he says with a deep sigh.
“A typical day for me entails being thankful to draw new breath and being afforded the opportunity to do what I am most passionate about. I would then head off to the fields to count my stock because livestock theft runs rife in the area,” a concerned Lekgetho adds.
Stock theft, he explains, has become an obstacle in his thriving mixed farming enterprise producing Bonsmara and beef cattle, goats, chicken, and vegetables.
“Apart from global warming and minimal rains, stock theft has become a hinderance for my business,” he says somberly.
‘Together we would go to auctions, he would teach me the ins and outs about spotting good deals, teach about feed and how to differentiate between species.’
A simple solution involves Lekgetho conducting thorough daily checks and counting each of the livestock in his kraal. “You need to do those patrols when you get to the farm, you never know what might’ve have happened the night before,” he says with uncertainty.
While he has taken the reigns on his newly acquired land for just a year, Lekgetho reveals that he has been farming for his entire life.
“Everything that I have learned I learned from my grandfather. Not a school holiday would go by without me visiting the farm. My passions for agriculture began when I was very young.
“Together we would go to auctions, he would teach me the ins and outs about spotting good deals, teach about feed and how to differentiate between species.”
New member to the Amantsi Family. She is a 5 year Old Pregnant Stud Bonsmara Cow👨🏿🌾👨🏿🌾👨🏿🌾👨🏿🌾🌾🌾🔥🔥🔥🐓🍳❤️ pic.twitter.com/EO5g2vGVeM
— Olerile Ole (@OleLekgetho) October 16, 2020
Today Lekgetho’s weeks feel incomplete without at least two visits to those very local auctions he used to attend with the Lekgetho patriarch. “It doesn’t mean that we are necessarily going to buy or sell stock, sometimes we just go and see what the market is looking like, we take pointers,” he says.
“I buy underweight cows that I would feed and fatten and later I would sell them back at auctions.”
‘Give me land and you will see’
Lekgetho was born and raised in Taung nearly 232km from the provincial hub of Mahikeng.
After matriculating from the Reivilo Combined Secondary School in 2003, he enrolled for a diploma in internal auditing at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and graduated in 2007.
In 2008, Lekgetho began working as a bank teller at a local bank in Taung. In that same year he was offered a job in accountancy at the Greater Taung Municipality where he remained for six years.
Despite being an accomplished professional in the financial sector he reveals that he never stopped farming. “I grew up farming and took over from my grandfather.”
“The young man is old now,” he jokes.
His transition from the professional office to the farmer’s field was not a major adjustment, he further clarifies. “Remember I have always been farming, even from a very young age.
“Making the shift was as easy as riding a bike. This was not something new for me, the only difference is that I have completely dedicated my life to the business. Before I was working, I was a student as well and I was farming.”
Access to funding looms like a dark cloud that shrouds his business. “When you want to grow and expand, a roadblock will always be, funding, funding, funding,” he sighs.
Despite challenges he refuses to kneel and give up on his farming passions.
“As farmers you are in control of your own destiny. You do not need to suck up to succeed. People need commodities produced on our farms every day and that’s what motivates me. I have to feed the nation.”
A moment of breakthrough came when he signed a 30-year lease securing the 666-ha of state land.
‘Start now, even if you start with one chicken, or one goat or one cow, start. Don’t wait for government.’
“It was a long process jong, it took a long time for me to get it,” he mutters.
“My goal was just to say, ‘let me get my hands on that land’. Whether it was the most downtrodden, neglected piece of land, I did not care; I just wanted that land, I wanted to expand my operations.
“Even when I started farming on this land, there was no irrigation system, there was nothing. I designed everything from infrastructure to the irrigation.”
Young and prospective farmers looking to break into the industry should, “Start now, even if you start with one chicken, or one goat or one cow, start. Don’t wait for government,” Lekgetho advises.
“The biggest mistake young farmers make is having this mentality of entitlement. Government does not owe you a thing, use whatever resource you have at your disposal,” he says.
It doesn’t matter if u wear ur blue overall or khakhi clothes or ur moschino sneakers to ur farm. Soo long as we all farming and feeding the Nation it’s ok.. Lets all farm in peace and productively 🤜🏼🤜🏼👨🏿🌾👨🏿🌾🌾🌾🌾🥬🥬🐓🐓 pic.twitter.com/ChtmTA63NA
— Olerile Ole (@OleLekgetho) September 29, 2020