Vuyani Lolwane knows there is a world of possibilities in the soil and he is not afraid to chase them. His late father, Thando, whose heart belonged to the land, laid a strong farming foundation for his son long before he started to farm himself.
As a teenager, Lolwane was his father’s shadow and he even attended Grain SA’s farmer days with his tata, where he learnt a great deal about farming. Grain SA is a non-profit organisation and represents the grain producers of South Africa.
Today the 35-year-old farmer from Lichtenburg in the North West says his father was a hardworking man and his role model.
Keeping himself up to date with new agricultural techniques, Lolwane often meets with his farming mentor, Du Toit van der Westhuizen to trace his modern farming journey. Van der Westhuizen is Grain SA’s North West coordinator for farmer development.
“The farmer days have helped me grow my farming business even after the death of my father. The courses I attended and the study groups that I have joined with Grain SA have made it easy for me to adapt.”
The maize, sunflower and wheat farmer farms on his own and communal land that he acquired through the Land Redistribution programme, operated by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. The programme’s strategic objectives include comprehensive farm development for smallholder farmers and the promotion of equitable land redistribution and agricultural development.
Out of the almost 1300 hectares on which he farms, only about 830 hectares are arable soil. And only a small portion of it is planted under irrigation by the use of borehole water.
The recent drought across South Africa posed a great challenge for Lolwane, as the majority of his crops are farmed on dry land. He says farmers in the area have been severely impacted, including him. This burden has been weighing heavily on many farmers. Some even had to sell a few cows to keep their farm from closing down, because they are struggling to get financial aid.
Nominated for the Grain SA/ABSA/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year award in 2017, Lolwane has learned that he needs to adapt to the changing environment.
He has since added popcorn, tebus beans and barley to his crop rotation system. As he keeps a close eye on crop price fluctuations, Lolwane tries to keep a fine balance between inputs and projective returns.
“I have introduced additional crops because of the market. The maize and the sunflowers, their input is very high, and you are struggling to get your own prices. But with other crops you plant a crop with a price signed on.”
With all the available possibilities and carrying on with his father’s legacy, Lolwane knows that in order to build his business he has to venture to gain and sometimes let go to remain.