productivity; pests

Farmers’ Diaries: Sipho Mthimunye

Sipho Mthimunye, Bethal, Mpumalanga

We have just had a disaster with rodents and birds destroying about 30ha of newly planted maize. The lands are infested with rodent holes and we have not yet discovered which bird species has been hammering the maize.

We have applied pesticides that will hopefully get rid of the rodents and are currently replanting, which is a very expensive process. I’ve just bought seed, which now costs over R4 000 a bag – which is only enough to plant a little more than 4ha.

Because of time constraints, I have hired a contractor, my neighbour Michael Erasmus, who will be able to plant faster than I can. Michael contracted for me when I started grain production here and he taught me much of what I know today.

With his help I’ve managed to buy my own equipment: two tractors, a spray boom, a disc harrow and a ripper, and four-row and six-row planters, which I used this season. However, with limited time and a problem with tractor breakdowns, Michael has come in to help me plant.

Because of the good relationship we have and his kindness, he has done the work on credit, and I will only be paying him after I’ve harvested. I did not have the money to replant and would have been sunk without his help.

My biggest concern now is hail, which normally hits us around this time. Some areas have already been hit and those farmers are also replanting. A lack of insurance deepens the risk for emerging farmers like me.

Insurance is virtually unaffordable for smaller farmers. When I investigated insurance for my 2020 crop I received a quote of R400 000, which simply was not feasible.

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