This #SoilSista discovered ‘the soft life’ in farming

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Inspired by her parents, Tika Maapola from Northam, Limpopo, has made many sacrifices to flourish as a farmer. This week, she is crowned as Food For Mzansi and Corteva Agriscience’s #SoilSista. In a special series, we feature some of the extraordinary farmers currently participating in the Corteva Women Agripreneur Programme 2021, a year-long blended development programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA).

Raised by parents who kept cows for livestock farming, it was not a question of “if” but rather “when” Tika Maapola from Northam in Limpopo would carry forward the family farming baton. Though it wasn’t love at first sight, the influence from her parents eventually rubbed off on her over time.  

“I grew up in a farming environment,” she recalls. “Both of my parents were livestock farmers. I didn’t actually plan on becoming a farmer, but I guess life just let me be.”

Maapola is not quite sure whether her parents could be described as subsistence farmers. “I don’t know! But they had a lot of cattle and a farm. I am not sure whether it qualified to be called commercial or subsistence. They used to sell over 200 young bulls.

Maapola farms with over 200 animals. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi
Tika Maapola farms with over 200 animals. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

“Because I grew up in a village, everyone knew that Ntate Maapola had cattle, so whenever there was a need, he would be able to assist. But how he made the whole operation work was through selling his younger bulls.”

Despite only having started farming in 2017, Maapola has had a remarkable turnaround thus far. Under her leased 960-hectare farm, Kgaladi Omphile Investments, Maapola keeps over 120 matured cattle, 60 goats and 100 sheep. And for this quick turnaround, she has sacrifices made along the way to thank.

“It’s sacrificing a lot of things; sacrificing your good life. Farming, for me, is a micro blaster: sacrificing what my peers would call a good life, like driving your Mercedes and going on expensive holidays. Whatever cent you have, you decide whether you buy an expensive handbag or two goats.”

Many lessons learnt

Like many farmers facing various plights in the farming sector, Maapola has equally had her fair share of troubles. Early last year, after relocating from Mookgophong to Northam, some of Maapola’s livestock were stolen.

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“I recently moved from Mookgophong to Northam. I got here last year May and that’s when I got a new farm. I lost over 100 of my sheep. It was a new area and, apparently I was told, it was a leopard. But somehow the leopard didn’t have four legs but had two legs,” she says sadly.

Maapola does not only run a livestock farm, but she also runs a small bakery. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi
Tika Maapola does not only run a livestock farm, but she also runs a small bakery. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

Even worse, not a single of the pigs she had is left after nearly all her pigs were infected by African swine fever. By then 500 piglets and 150 pigs had to be culled.

Luckily for her, when the country went into a hard Covid-19 lockdown early last year, the business was given a much-needed boost. “Although the meat prices went high during that time, at least on our part, the demand for meat grew, which meant more cattle sold on our part,” she reveals.

Multiple streams of income

While Maapola doesn’t struggle with cattle sales, she felt hampered by the irregular or inconsistent cashflow from her business. So, she came up with the plan to get more regular cash by also baking and selling bread.

“I am running a small bakery. We bake bread and supply nearby villages. You know that in farming, you don’t get money every day, so that helps with expenses such as electricity as well as other minor costs,” she explains.

She also reckons that if she could get access to a large piece of land, her plans to keep many cattle as well as growing crops would come to fruition.

When asked to advise young and upcoming farmers, the third-year BCom (accounting) drop-out at Pearson Institute quips, “Let’s work and be passionate about what we’re doing.”

The rest is history, as they say. She’s currently on the year-long blended finance programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA), powered by Corteva Agriscience, and will soon add it to the milestones she has reached.

ALSO READ: Meet the domestic worker turned chicken farmer

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