“When I began to farm, I found myself again. I found what truly makes me happy. My place of peace and my connection to God was found,” says Romeo Sedibe (25) a small-scale farmer in Mpumalanga.
When Sedibe’s mother passed away, he lost all hope and the will to carry on with life. He was in his early 20s, but after the loss he felt like nothing mattered to him anymore. However, it was farming that rejuvenated his spirit and gave him the courage to be strong.
Sedibe was born and raised at Acornhoek, Greenvalley in Mpumalanga. He grew up the second-born in a loving home with supporting parents.
“I was raised by a religious family and I also loved going to church. While growing up, I can’t say it was easy, but I was never exposed to financial struggles as both my parents were working,” says Sedibe.
In 2013 he was 17 when his mother, Resinah, introduced him to farming and he began to learn the art of planting in their backyard. Together they planted vegetables that ensured food on their table.
“I think the best thing is when we cooked the veggies that we had planted – that is an amazing feeling and the veggies taste much better,” Sedibe recalls.
In 2019 his life took a knock when his mother passed away. He was 23 at the time and he says that is when he lost faith and the courage to continue with life.
His mother had been his inspiration and pillar of strength. When she passed away, the loss made the world seem like it was crumbling down on him. However, it was farming that brought him back to life and helped him find his purpose in life once again.
When his mother was alive, she taught him how to take good care of vegetables and flowers. “So, when I am working the land and taking care of the vegetables, I feel this incredible connection as if my mother is right here next to me.”
Inspired by the memory of his mother, in 2020 Sedibe decided to take farming more seriously. He rented a piece of land in Matsikitane, Mpumalanga where he plants tomatoes and green peppers.
He is often asked why he puts so much work into farming when he could maybe buy the fruits and veggies cheaply. His response is, “It’s not about trying to save money nor making money, but it’s a chance to connect with nature every day.”
Sedibe says his father, Raymond, also played a positive role in his farming journey. He provided nets to protect the crops from stray animals.
He adds that his father also introduced him to poultry farming, buying him a couple of chickens to start with. “Animal farming is something that I am strongly working towards and I also want to excel in this department.”
Limited by available water
Nothing comes without challenges and Sedibe’s biggest challenge is water.
“When it comes to the issues of water shortages, it affects the business badly. Production becomes too small while the demand is too high. If I had enough water I would have more production and be able to meet the demand and plant more veggies,” he explains.
Another challenge for a young and small-scale farmer is funding. “Farmers need money in order to meet their personal needs and, most importantly, to carry out farming.
“In order to improve irrigation facilities, farmers need money. In order to increase the yield, farmers need modern equipment and tools backed up with quality fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides.”
Currently, Sedibe employs two people. His vision is to create more job opportunities for people, especially in his community, and help those in need. Farming speaks to him and helps him to make sense of loss and all the things that life has to teach him, he says.
“I love growing everything, from plants to people. The more you love and care for your plants, the better they produce. There is a reciprocation of love and duty like no other.
“I may be weird, but I actually watch my plants grow, talk to them and take time for each plant, showing some tender kindness while helping them grow strong.”
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