Subsistence farming is a way of life in most rural areas and it was no different for Sinelizwi’s family. Their mother was a teacher at the local school and she instilled in her children the need for a good education. She also taught them how to be responsible and dependable and they are well aware of the sacrifices she made as a single mother.
Responsibility and being dependable count for a lot in life.
Sinelizwi grew up in a rural village near Mthatha called Upper Tabase, and is the eldest of three children. His passion for farming started at the Weston Agricultural College where he matriculated in 2009. He then went to Cedara College in KwaZulu-Natal where he completed his BTech Degree in Agricultural Management. This was followed by a BAgric Honours Degree in Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management from UKZN.
One would have thought all these qualifications would be enough for anyone. But, not yet satisfied, he completed an MAgric in Food Security in 2016 at the Pietermaritzburg Campus of the same university. And he plans to complete his PhD when his farming responsibilities allow him time.
Intelligence and education are important. But the will to follow through and complete what one starts is vital for success in life.
Sinelizwi was aware of the huge difficulties experienced in the rural Eastern Cape. Poverty is a real problem in this province. And so, when he was given the chance to assist in rural development there, he jumped at it.
Grain SA Farmer Development Programme had been tasked with commercialising black farmers. Sinelizwi was asked to manage an office serving 2000 farmers, planting just over 3000 hectares of maize in the province. It is important to note that this was not on commercially owned land, but on the communal land that was overseen by the traditional authority.
Having to farm on communal land need not necessarily be a problem.
He worked at first with a team of 18 young graduates, helping and educating rural farmers. He and his team managed to instill in people the idea that, with the correct farming basics, money could be made on communal land. With ownership of land being beyond the average Eastern Cape individual, this was a very important lesson to get across.
Grain SA enabled him to develop black contractors who would now be employable on farms.
The contractors he mentored now had access to better equipment which would make their businesses easier and more efficient. The value of this partnership between the black farmers and the private sector was worth R15 million and became a venture of which they could all be justifiably proud.
Notice to farmers: “Dear farmers, please note that mechanization is now provided. If you become a member and you pay your contribution per hectare, we will provide mechanization for you. Our target this season is 3000ha. Don’t miss out!!”
With a proven track record, Sinelizwi decided to resign from Grain SA in 2019 to pursue his own farming career. Once that was going well, he wanted to do something about unemployment in the province.
Using the knowledge and experience he had gained, he started Ukhanyo Farmer Development, a project to produce seed and fodder commercially. This venture is led by young men and women, and it is already reducing local unemployment. It is also finding a ready market for its produce.
“To date, we are supporting 500 farmers on 490 hectares producing maize.”
Funding is always a problem, but they were aided by Farmsol, the Anglican Church and the Government and tribal authorities. As Sinelizwi says, “The work of assisting black farmers continues and we are the owners of our business, and possibly part of the youngest development agency in the province focused on this type of work.”
With Sinelizwi as chairman, thirty-six young graduates (several previously unemployed) have taken it upon themselves to drive rural commercialisation in the Eastern Cape. They plan to expand to other provinces as well.
As one of the young women graduates said, “If you wait for a job, you will sit at home for a long time. It is much better to start something yourself.”
Funding is always a problem for new businesses. Sinelizwi himself was declined no less than sixteen times when he was looking for funding to start farming. The government obviously has a role to play. When an idea is already moving forward and proving viable like this one, there should be a more reasonable attitude towards funding.
As Sinelizwi so rightly says: “The right jockey for this Transformation Race must be found to create a more equal agricultural industry.”
Farmers are so vital to the future of this country and should all be sustained and allowed to develop in order to feed the ever-increasing population as well as provide food for export.
They should also be protected by all South Africans as they are soft targets for criminals.
It would seem that the right jockeys to ride this race and win it have been identified in the Eastern Province. They are the Ukhanyo Farmer Development people, and this business has the ability to make a real change for the better in rural areas.
#ImStaying is grateful to Backsaver Farming Implements for bringing Sinelizwi Fakade’s remarkable efforts to improve the farming opportunities for aspiring farmers in the rural Eastern Cape to our notice.
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GOOD THOUGHTS • GOOD WORDS • GOOD DEEDS
Writer & Researcher for #ImStaying
I am a retired English teacher and artist living in the shade of Devil’s Peak. I’m a committed member of the Rainbow Nation.