From father to son, 1 hectare to 30, farming is in the genes for this Limpopo family

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They employ Dzumeri villagers at Mabunda's farm for harvesting.
They employ Dzumeri villagers at Mabunda's farm for harvesting.

He had very simple intentions when he first started - to cut costs and make it easier for people in his village to get basic vegetables to add to their several colour meals on Sundays and special occasions.

When James Mabunda started planting his first seedlings in 1983, he wasn't thinking too far ahead. Now, 40 years later, his farm is bigger and still going strong at Dzumeri village in Giyani, Limpopo. 

It all started when he couldn't bear to see how fellow villagers struggle just to get basic vegetables. They were forced to go outside their village every time, which meant spending money on transport. 

The now 97-year-old decided to cut the cost for his villagers and make it easy through farming. 

James resigned from his job as a farming manager to dedicate his time to his village. He left with a tractor, disc plough, and disc harrow which were given to him by his former employers.

Six months later, when the village authorities saw how much James was able to produce at his farm, they decided to extend his allocated land to 10 hectares. He registered his farm with the department of agriculture.

“I started with the aim of planting crops for my family and with the experience I had, I thought that I should start my own farm and also help the community," James says.

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His son, Adam Mabunda took over once his father retired and elevated the farm to even greater heights. They now supply vegetables to big stores all over South Africa and neighbouring countries including Mozambique and Zimbabwe. 

Adam tells us that the farm started like any other farm in the rural area - with only one hectare of land which was allocated by the tribal authority to villagers.

"He used to plough cabbages, spinach, tomatoes and a bit of chilli. So you can imagine how a quarter hectare can accommodate how much produce. There were shortages of these veggies in the village at the time and that's why my dad planted them because people were just used to the traditional morogo.

"He was a farming manager himself for 45 years before he dedicated his time to farming for us and his village when he resigned from work. He loves farming with all of his heart." 

He says after the heavy floods in 2000, his dad's farm was affected.

"It was so messy, it was a very big space that he planted from so it flooded the crops and everything. My dad then went to the department of agriculture for some relief funds and he was told that he was too old and they are not going to assist him as the government. So from there, he couldn't stand up." 

That's when he took over, Adam says. He tells us that he was working at Wits University at the time. He says during recess while at tertiary he would go home and assist his dad with bookkeeping for the farm. 

"When I got home he told me that he had already spoken to my older brothers who all pointed to me when it came to taking over the farm. This was because I used to assist with a lot of things during school holidays."

Adam Mabunda
Adam Mabunda
Adam Mabunda
Villagers hard at work at Dzumeri farm

"So between 1993 and 1997, the farm was nominated for awards and it has actually won four consecutive awards for farmers. It all made sense for the brothers because they said 'that one who made sure that the farm wins awards must be the one taking over' and I didn't have a problem with it. 

"I told him that we have to do it in a contemporary manner and not how used to do it then. That was in 2001, and I only made my mind up [to take over the farm] in 2003 but I resigned from work in 2004. I only started working at the farm full-time in 2005."

He says when he started, the farm was a closed corporation with only two members. He later changed it to a cooperative. 

"The difference is that if it is a closed corporation, it is like a private organisation while cooperative it means it's a public entity hence the number of cooperatives is also more."

Dzumeri villagers benefit too as they have work opportunities during harvesting time.

"We have eleven full-time employees as we speak. But from time to time when we harvest, plant a bigger portion, we employ our villagers just like now we have around 25 workers."

The farm is "divided into two, one is 10 hectares and that is the part that is already fenced and equipped with irrigation system etc. Then the other part is only 20 hectares but we are still trying to mobilise funds to establish it into a working level".

He says he does several crops now.

"We plough almost every vegetable you can think of, you know your butternuts, beetroots, carrots, baby marrows, onions, peppers, you name them; every little crop that is from Limpopo we do them."

And they are supplying big stores and firms with fresh veggies.

"We supply them in our community and nationally. We also supply Pick N Pay and Shoprite. We also supply the Miami processing factory when we have overripe produce, we also supply a factory in Johannesburg and Tshwane as well as Vijay’s Fresh Produce Market in Durban, we also sent to neighbouring countries Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” Adam says with pride.

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He tells us that he does all this with so much love because he prefers spending time at the farm.

"This is my life, when I wake up, I find the greatest joy in what awaits me to do each day. It is my passion whether it is heavily raining, hot weather, or cold, I love what I do. It is also fulfilling to see communities being thankful that they were able to complete their meals by coming here. I am reaching self-actualization just by seeing the greenery view."

That's why he's passing on his knowledge by mentoring students who have enrolled to study agriculture at tertiary institutions.

"I have inspired a lot of young people and as we speak, I have a total of 10 students who I am mentoring because they want to become farmers. I do it every week and I give them my all because I want them to see how important farming is, we eat every day because of farming. I find a lot of pleasure in doing it." 

The 48-year-old is also a proud father. He tells us that he's grooming his son who just aced his matric this year, to take over the farm when he retires.

Adam Mabunda
Adam Mabunda
Adam Mabunda
Adam Mabunda
Adam Mabunda
Chilli produced at the farm
Adam Mabunda
packages ready for delivery nationwide and to neighboring countries

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