Don’t put your eggs in one basket

Angie Khumalo, host of the television show African Farming, visited Duncan Serapelwane, an esteemed Bonsmara breeder who farms in the Kalahari, near Morokweng in the North West province, during the fourth episode of the series.

The experts in the studio, were all impressed with Serapelwane and the condition of his herd, especially since he farms in a semi-desert area.

Although Serapelwane loves his cattle, he and his family members also farm with goats, chicken and sheep, and have several farms on which he plants crops such as maize, sunflower and ground nuts.

Reggie Mchunu, Key Account Manager for smallholder farmers at Pannar, believes this is the way to go.  Khumalo wanted to know from Mchunu what an emerging farmer can do to survive harsh farming conditions like a drought. “Usually we are not prepared for it. What can an emerging farmer like I do when we face these challenges?” 

Mchunu highlighted that farmers should spread their risk by adding various components to their existing farming operations. According to him, diversification is key, as it helps build resilience when facing the various seasons and weather patterns that could so easily ruin a farmer’s business.

“If you want to win the battle, and face the different seasons head on, you have to spread your risk.”

The most important reason for diversification is to use it as a tool to mitigate risk. These risks include climatic, financial and market-related risk. There are other ways, such as insurance, to manage risk, but diversification is the best option in the long run.

He said drought can affect farmers in different ways and that is one of the reasons why a farmer should diversify.

“If you plant maize to feed your animals, you can also think about producing maize to sell.”

He suggests that if you plant maize, you can consider planting various cultivars or kinds of maize, that could spread the risk.

“By planting maize that can cope with less water, as well as maize that can grow in more rainy conditions, you can cover the various weather patterns and be more sure of having a good yield at the end of harvesting season.”

Mchunu says it does not stop there, you can plant various crops, depending on the conditions you have on your farm.

“If you plant lucerne and you experience a drought, you can supplement your feed with the lucerne. You may also want to plant other crops like oats, to do this.”

For information: Reggie Mchunu, 082 098 5242; email, reggie.mchunu@pannar.co.za

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