Lindiwe Sithole, host of African Farming Season 2, heads to the Eastern Cape to meet Nonhlanhla Gumede-Shabalala, one of the few women in the sugar cane farming industry. “In just five years, Nonhlanhla found her feet in the industry and is growing by leaps and bounds every year,” Sithole says. And although it is challenging, this inspiring farmer loves every moment of it.
Nonhlanhla Gumede-Shabalala helped her father out of a pickle in 2010, and in the process she discovered that she wants to farm. “She is a hard worker,” confirms her father, Mahlakaniphana. “She was always the first to wake up when she was young, always willing to learn and work alongside me. I want her to succeed and become a successful commercial farmer.”
Gumede-Shabalala is very proud to work alongside her family. “The Gumedes are doing it!” she says excitedly. Over the years she has had to overcome a lot challenges. “We had to hire contractors, as we didn’t have the capital to buy our own equipment. Some of the contractors are unreliable.”
She believes it is much better to invest in your own equipment. “To manage a sugar cane yield, one needs at least two tractors,” she says. “A truck is also handy, as we need to take our yield to the sugar mill.” At this stage they don’t have a truck, but Gumede-Shabalala believes they will get there.
Outsourcing, especially in the sugarcane industry, is sometimes necessary, as most emerging farmers don’t have the initial capital investment to buy their own equipment. If it is done right, outsourcing can be a great way for small-scale farmers to improve efficiencies and bolster their bottom line, but it also has its drawbacks and should be applied sparingly.
Lerato Mashiloane, Warehouse Operations Manager at John Deere, says outsourcing can be challenging but can also add value to your business. “If you choose the right contractor, they can provide experienced people who will even give you valuable pointers.” Farmers should speak to their neighbours in the community to get reliable reviews of a contractor first, she explains. “If you hire a good contractor, you can get good outputs.”
Mashiloane says she loves Gumede-Shabalala’s approach to mechanisation. “Mechanisation, done right, can increase productivity and lead to better profits, but it is crucial for a farmer to understand the needs of their farm and then talk to the experts to help them invest in the right equipment.”