Angie Khumalo, presenter of Mzansi Wethu’s new show African Farming, was inspired by Dr Obakeng Mfikwe, a registered medical doctor, who hung up his stethoscope to become a profitable commercial farmer in Rietfontein in the North West province.
“He has not one, but three farms, and leases two more,” said Khumalo.
Dr Mfikwe started with 150 000 broiler chickens a decade ago. Since then he has added cattle, including the Simmentaler, Simbra and Black Angus, to his farming operation. To feed his cattle he plants 950 hectares of maize; harvesting it in the summer before replacing it with crops such as oats and sorghum. He also plants 300 hectares of sunflowers.
Khumalo asked Reggie Mchunu, Key Account Manager of Smallholder Farmers at Pannar, how to farm successfully in a low-rainfall province such as the North West.
“What can an aspiring farmer like me do to get to Dr Mfikwe’s level?” she asked.
According to Mchunu there are various management issues a farmer needs to consider when planting in this region.
“The success of crop production depends on how a farmer manages his land.”
He said, the first step is managing the soil properly, starting with sample tests. This is key to protecting and enhancing the performance of the soil, and includes soil conservation, soil amendment and health.
“When the results of these tests are presented to the farmer, he will also receive recommendations on how to improve the quality of the soil, that will help improve soil fertility and in turn, facilitate the growth of crops with better nutritional value to feed to his livestock.”
Another aspect of land management is to look out for harmful weeds.
“We encourage farmers to first rid their land of harmful weeds before planting crops. The land should be free of weeds for at least two months, to ensure a good yield.”
Then it comes down to implementing an integrated pest management programme to control pests and diseases that affect a crop.
“This plan should be implemented throughout the year to avoid pests and diseases at all costs, since both can have an impact on a farmer’s harvest and bottom line.”
Mchunu believes that in the end, one of the most important decisions a farmer makes is to decide what type of crop he wants to plant.
“Cultivar selection is vital,” he said. “A farmer needs to choose a crop that will flourish in their environment, to work with what they have.”
For information: contact Reggie Mchunu 082 098 5242 or firstname.lastname@example.org