At the height of a successful career as an engineer and market researcher, Eric Mauwane decided it was time to spice up his life in 2012. He had always dreamt of becoming a pig farmer, but after planting some vegetables to sustain the piggery, he fell in love with growing vegetables.
Lindiwe Sithole, host of African Farming Season 2, heads to Oneo Farms near Tartlon in Gauteng to see what Eric Mauwane is up to. Mauwane has had an uphill battle this winter, losing most of his pepper and chilli crops owing to extremely low temperatures. “Almost all my crops succumbed to the cold. I almost wanted to give up, but I held on to the lesson my father taught me: never give up. We are farmers, we have to start again, prepare the soil and plant again. We have no choice but to become resilient.”
Sylvester Lubambo of Lemang Agricultural Services says it is difficult for farmers to carry on when they have to face challenge after challenge. Mauwane recently also lost his father, who had been a trusted mentor. “My father supported me in following my dreams,” Mauwane says.
According to Lubambo, Mauwane has done well until now. “Strategic business partners will help and support him further in buying the right tools, as well as give him valuable advice on how to cope during difficult times. These companies can sit down with Eric and help him draw up an overall risk assessment plan for his business. They will also be able to offer him solutions like insurance products. Having the best possible insurance to cover you when challenges arise will ensure that you can continue regardless of what happens.” He says good financial planning and a tight budget will also help farmers through tough times.
Mauwane has two teenaged children who are eager to learn from him. They are actively involved in the daily operations on the farm. Lubambo says succession planning, especially in a medium-sized business like Oneo Farms, is critical to ensure the sustainability of the business for generations to come. “I am happy to see that his children are so keen to learn from him.”