‘We won’t be small-scale’, say emerging farmers

Five emerging farmers received aR15,6-million farm in the Eastern Cape after completing an intensive three-year course in the farming of angora goats and sheep.

- Advertisement -

The 5 400ha farm Uitkomst, between Klipplaat and Jansenville, was recently bought by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, and Sarah Louw, Aman Sakata, Sidwell Paulse, Johannes Cronje and Salomina Myburgh will move there soon. “These farmers must know the sword of Damocles will be hanging over their heads when it comes to making a success of this venture,” said Prof Dan Sandi, the Eastern Cape regional senior manager for Agriculture in the Western Region. “But the department will render never-ending support to them.”

Speaking at the handover ceremony in Klipplaat, he added that Eastern Cape farmers hadn’t waited for government to approach them about transformation or land reform. “Commercial farmers came to us and asked what they can do to make a success of land reform. Sometimes they don’t even ask, they take the initiative,” he noted. Jansenville, Steytlerville and Klipplaat fall under the Ikwezi municipality in the Cacadu District. Sandi said they considered Ikwezi, not Port Elizabeth, the mohair capital.

The district has about 3 million head of cattle, 9 million sheep and 200 000 angora goats – “yet the people of Cacadu remain poor,” he said.  Project leader and mentor of the five new farmers, Gielie Grobler said the graduates would be successful. “They were keen to learn and worked hard to improve their situation. The result of this commitment is that 260 angora kids were born from the 230 ewes that lambed this year.”

- Advertisement -

The five will be mentored until they feel confident to continue on their own.Grobler emphasised, “It’s crucial for the mohair industry that they succeed, as there are so many projects that fail.” Jan Wendt of the Cacadu mentorship programme said the farmers’ success hinged on passion and their ability to deal with soil, mechanics, diseases and the like. SA Mohair Growers’ Association president Gerhard Grobler welcomed the new farmers into the fold, adding that his association would assist them where possible, while Mohair SA’s managing director Deon Saayman added that, “Mohair SA will be there to support them at all times”.

One of the farmers, Sarah Louw, said they were not going to be small-scale farmers. “We will be commercial farmers. We’re very committed in the knowledge that God is with us and we know that we reap the fruits of what we’ve learnt.“We’ll assist the community of Klipplaat and choose workers from the poorest who have no income and are committed to work on the farm. We won’t sit back and watch them work, we’ll work side by side with them. You must watch us closely, we won’t disappoint or embarrass you,” said Louw.

Initially, the South African Mohair Industries provided 210 angora ewes and three rams, while the Angora Ram Breeders Society provided five rams and Virbac, an international pharmaceutical company, agreed to sponsor all animal health products, such as dips and anti-parasite measures. In the three-year training course, students weren’t paid and had to continue with other work. But all mohair and surplus stock was sold, with the full proceeds going into bank accounts opened on the students’ behalf. 

A new intake of five students is underway on the Hardwood training farm and Gielie Grobler is confident they’ll also successfully complete the course. The Hardwood mohair training initiative is a collaboration between local authorities, the Ikwezi Municipality, the agriculture department and the mohair industry.