Successful Farmer Shows How It Is Done

Mr Robert Thekiso of Khumo Farm in Thaba Nchu in the Free State Province spoke passionately to the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries during an oversight visit to his farm, which was partly funded by the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development from 2012 to 2017. As part of its oversight mandate, Parliament must inspect projects funded by government to ensure that there is value for money and that the money is spent on what it is intended for.

Mr Thekiso spoke of his trials and tribulations in running his 669-hectare farm successfully. The farm was bought in 1998 through a loan from the Land Bank and through the years, he has paid the loan off. Mr Thekiso together with his three sons and a daughter work on the farm breeding cattle, sheep and chickens. To supplement his income, he sells the chickens to the local community. He grows his own feed for his animals, but the recent drought has made the growing of maize and sunflower seeds for the feedlots difficult.

Mr Thekiso said that he wished that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had been quicker in responding to the needs of farmers during the drought. Many have lost cattle and cash crops, and the drought has delayed the planting season. However, he has been able to employ four full-time workers.

He also facing other challenges, such as theft of his livestock. To combat this, he patrols at midnight, often in harsh weather, to ensure that he does not suffer any loss to his livestock. Fencing is a real challenge and although he received assistance from the national department to fence and repair 37 kilometres of fencing, maintenance of the fences is ongoing and depletes his budget. He is grateful for the assistance received thus far and proudly showed the new branded truck and tractor that he received from the department.

One of his future plans is to build a storage warehouse to store and process grain and grass, as he currently does not have the infrastructure to store the maize and sunflower seeds. He averages about 2.3 tons a year of maize. He aims to increase his stock capacity to 700 animals.

The main markets for his animals is Sky Country and Free State Meat. The Chairperson of the portfolio committee, Ms Rosina Machwene Semenya, congratulated Mr Thekiso on his achievement in receiving the best developing farmer in South Africa award. He is currently mentoring other farmers in the district on beef production. He hopes to one day have a butchery on the farm to explore the full value chain to improve on profits.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa