Workers smile from ear to ear

2012-04-21 13:35

A Mpumalanga farmer’s ambitious initiative to transform his workers into self-sufficient commercial farmers is slowly taking shape.

Colin Forbes of Athole Farm near Amsterdam donated 10% of his 5 600 hectare farm to his 34 workers last year and is training them to run a successful farming enterprise.

Forbes believes he can produce a fully fledged commercial farmer in three years. His initiative adopts a model that aims to:

» Encourage white commercial farmers to contribute to South Africa’s land reform process by offering to impart their skills and placate white farmers on the issue of transferring land ownership to blacks;

» Ensure that there’s food security and economic growth in rural areas as opposed to the multitude of farms that lie fallow as soon as they are transferred to black beneficiaries; and

» Bring government on board by compensating farmers fairly for willingly releasing portions of their land to their labourers.

Forbes gave each of his workers a hectare on which to train and he has carried all costs of tractors, implements and seeds. A further 26 workers will join the mentorship programme in the next planting season.

The workers have each borrowed R7 000 to finance the direct costs of planting a hectare of maize, which they will pay back at no interest with the income from their harvest in July.

Forbes said he and his protégés were expecting a yield of 7.5 to eight tons per hectare, which comes to about 255 tons for the beneficiaries’ combined 34 hectares of maize fields.

The price of a ton of maize is R2 250, which equates to about R600 000 turnover in total. Each beneficiary will make between R16 875 and R18 000 turnover from his portion.

“Commercial farmers are best placed to mentor their own employees as they have the scars of experience, which cannot be bought at any price,” Forbes said.

“They also have the other advantage of being able to provide on-site, in-service training in an ongoing manner, which teaches appropriate responses to ever-changing scenarios and day-to-day challenges. In turn, farm labourers have the best chance of successfully emerging as independent commercial farmers as they already have a great deal of experience in all aspects of farming apart from the necessary managerial skills,” he said.

Farm worker Anthony Maseko (53) said that Forbes’s mentorship was an eye-opener.

“There are many things I didn’t know as a worker, but they’re now becoming clearer. Forbes invites agricultural companies to come and speak to us about this business and that helps,” Maseko said.

“I’m looking forward to being a commercial farmer,” he added.

Forbes said that next year his workers will be taken through the process of borrowing money from the bank for their business.

“It’s a step-by-step process. I will recoup my R7 000 from their harvest and they will have to learn to sit with a bank manager and borrow money and arrange how to pay it back,” he said.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.