Farming paradigm shift

Mabila Mathebula

Mabila Mathebula

Published Mar 22, 2024


Mabila Mathebula and Aifheli Manwatha

Millennials would find it increasingly difficult to fathom that black people were not only discriminated based on their skin pigmentation but they were boxed and locked in terms of career choice.

When we did career guidance at school many years ago, the only careers that were available to black people were amongst others teaching, nursing, medicine, law as well as policing. We were never taught entrepreneurship, the Verwoerdian educational system was designed to make black people job seekers as opposed to job providers.

The effects of Bantu Education are still felt even today. Few young people know that agriculture forms the backbone of any economy. Dr. DPP Maroleng once wrote a poem which was directed to migrant labourers in 1972. In his lines he impressed upon blue collar workers to get an education which will usher them into a cushy office with a view to escaping hard labour. Like the emancipated slaves, in the US, we are still avoiding hard labour like an acute angle.

Farming and agriculture are ancient careers, Cain and Abel had been working the land and growing livestock. Farming and agriculture are the pivot on which any economy rotates. Before the advent of the migrant labour system, our forebears were deeply engrossed in subsistence farming.

Unfortunately some of our black farmers are still trapped in substance farming to the detriment of the economy and the environment. For example, livestock farming in the black community is still operationalised the traditional way, these traditional methods have been handed down from generation to generation. The farming and the agricultural landscape has tremendously changed, farmers should now embrace holistic thinking and must possess business acumen.

Traditional societies had their own criteria to measure wealth and prestige. For example, the wealth of a man was measured by a man’s livestock and a number of women he married. Traditional farming methods are unsustainable, we need to employ scientific approaches to our livestock farming.

In South Africa generally, skills in livestock farming have diminished and we need to move in speed to capacitate black farmers to understand international business and to participate in the global economy. Most people would be shocked if they discovered that farmers understand internal business and economic trends more than people who studied BCom degrees and MBA for career advancement. These people did a number of case studies but they cannot apply their knowledge,

Livestock farming could be an economic boost and a true measure of wealth if carried out within a purview of entrepreneurship. Cows are used in the black community for social functions such as funeral and weddings as well as rituals.

For example, a small village has an average of about 500 cows. The operational cost of keeping them for a year is around R1 750 000 this includes amongst others, drinking water, feeds, medicine and herds men. The monetary value of 500 cows is around R3 500 000 in summer while in winter the value deteriorates due to plethora of factors such as poor grazing sites.

In subsistence farming, keeping an animal for many years is something prestigious but economically viable, this does not make business sense since it increases operational costs. A farmer with a farmer with business acumen will keep livestock for breeding purposes.

In order for farmers to experience the degree of liquidity, they must keep animals for one or two months and sell them at an auction, for example, a one month calve fetches around R3 800 at an auction while your costs of its maintenance is less than R500.

We need to embark on a national campaign where black farmers will be empowered. If we transform our thinking, jobs will be created in our rural economy and food security will be guaranteed. We intend to write this column on black farming for the next six weeks.

Author and life coach Mathebula has a PhD in Construction Management; Aifheli Manwatha is a farmer.

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