Home Changemakers Inspiration ‘Why wait? Just start,’ says award-winning dairy farmer

‘Why wait? Just start,’ says award-winning dairy farmer

Eastern Cape dairy farmer Tshilidzi Matshidzula was announced as the 2020 winner of the prestigious MPO Nedbank Stewardship Awards

Tshilidzi Matshidzula admired by MPO Nedbank Stewardship Awards for his excellent farm management practices and attention to detail. Photo: Supplied.

Surely there’s no better feeling for an agriculturalist than to be recognised for dedicating a big chunk of your professional life to agriculture, agri workers, farming communities and the environment.

Well, this is exactly what Tshilidzi Matshidzula (31) of Little Barnet Farm in Alexandria (EC) is currently experiencing after being crowned the MPO Nedbank Stewardship Awards winner for 2020.

The prestigious competition hosted Nedbank and the Milk Producers Organisation, recognised Matshidzula as the epitome of a good dairy steward and farmer.

Held in association with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the competition celebrates farmers who excel in being good stewards of their land, product, people and animals.

He faced tough competition but Matshidzula walked away with a cash prize of R40 000 from Nedbank.

Matshidzula, better known as ‘Chilli’ among his peers, is a young farmer who has achieved a lot in his agri career over the span of one decade. He oversees the day-to-day running of the farm, which he partly owns, as its operational manager.

Read: ‘I just did not believe that black people could farm’

Farmer impresses judges with stellar farming principles

Following a call for nominations 19 were received from across the country. The nominated dairy farmers were requested to complete a survey as part the assessment process. Only three farmers with the highest scores came out top.

Farming duo Coenraad and Candice de Jongh from Blomfontein in Groot Brakrivier were announced as the runner ups. Ginkel Jordaan from Spekboomberg in Cradock scooped third place.

Judges said Matshidzula’s passion for dairy farming is reflected by his excellent farm management practices and attention to detail. His extensive consultation with experts and peers to maintain best practice was also singled out.

‘His outstanding work to empower and uplift the surrounding community through training, mentorship, and funding is commendable.’

Matshidzula runs a training programme for agricultural students on his farm. Currently his team of farm managers all come through his student mentorship programme. He manages twelve full-time and four part-time staff members.

Judges were further impressed with Matshidzula’s innovative measures to clean the water of the stream running through his farm. They were also wowed by his extraordinary vision and reckons the young farmer knows what is required for future sustainability.

Food For Mzansi caught up with the winner to find out how he is doing after his well-deserved victory, and to learn more about the farmer and his stewardship goals.

Duncan Masiwa: Being announced as the 2020 winner of the Nedbank MPO Stewardship award is quite a big deal, how does it feel to be appreciated and recognized by the industry?  

Tshilidzi Matshidzula: It’s a great feeling to know that our efforts in trying to build a sustainable business through developing people (staff, management and surrounding communities) are being recognised worldwide.

DM: Judges admired your excellent farm management practices and attention to detail. Why is this so important to you and how has it benefited your agri journey?

TM: Agriculture as a whole has become very competitive, internationally. Paying attention to detail has allowed us to grow as a business a lot faster than we could have anticipated.

Most businesses do not fall out of the game because of a lack of resources, but mainly because they could not keep up with the competitiveness of the industry.

DM: You’ve been toiling on the fields of Mzansi for over a decade now, what do you love about agriculture and what sparked your interest in the sector?

TM: What sparked my interest was seeing people in the industry that are successful. The one thing I love about this sector, is that there are endless opportunities within the continent.

DM: You live and advocate for the upliftment of communities through training and mentorship. Why is this so important? Any success stories to share?

TM: I believe we have a responsibility to develop people within our surrounding communities, partly as a way to eliminate biosecurity security threats.

I believe anyone who is in a position of privilege, should be doing that in the interest of developing agriculture in the country. The same principles should apply for university graduates.

As for any success stories, we are involved in various mentorship programmes within the community and members of our management team are products of the mentorship programmes.

DM: Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story?

TM: My advice would be, anyone can do it. Waiting for government to address unemployed questions not only creates frustrations, but it delays one’s progress in life. Therefore, those who are in a position to start, start. Do it with what you have and consult where necessary.

DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.