One doesn’t have to run a big farming operation in order to become a mentor to other farmers. Small-scale farmer…
South Africa’s rebirth as a democracy, coupled with its high population growth, has made ‘transformation’ and ‘food security’ buzz words in the agricultural sector. The irony is that the more successful efforts to attain these goals are often undertaken quietly outside government’s much-hyped – but frequently poorly implemented – programmes. A prime example is the case of small-scale KwaZulu-Natal farmer, Nixon Tenza, who is graciously sharing both his farming knowledge and his agricultural machinery and implements with his fellow residents.
Nixon lives and farms in Nokweja on 10ha of communal land allocated to his family about 40 years ago by the iNkosi (chief) of the Emawusheni Traditional Authority. Nixon’s late grandparents and parents farmed this land, and since retiring two years ago from driving trucks, Nixon is now a full-time farmer too.
A visit to the Tenza homestead reveals a property where almost every square inch is planted to crops depending on the season. These include white and yellow maize, potato, cabbage, onion, tomato, spinach, green pepper and leek, as well as peach, orange, naartjie and plum. A small proportion of the produce is kept for home consumption; the rest is sold to community members, hawkers and retail outlets.
Nixon proudly admits that he has a passion for farming, hence his highly productive farm. But it is only when he is prompted that this modest man admits he also uses his farm as an informal, and totally free, training facility. He generously shares his knowledge with any Nokweja resident who is keen to start his own cropping enterprise and wishes to learn valuable farming tips.
“People hear that I’m a successful farmer and they want to learn from me. The Bible says that it’s more blessed to give than to receive, and this makes me want to help them and to teach them when they ask,” he explains simply. Nixon teaches his ‘students’ money-saving crop management methods such as how to collect and apply livestock manure – readily available in the area – as a cheap, effective, organic plant food alternative to chemical fertilisers.
Nokweja falls under the Emawusheni Traditional Authority. The iNkosi is responsible for allocating arable land to community members such as Nixon.
“I’ve visited some of the people I trained and have been happy to see that they are doing much better for themselves with their crops,” he says. “But it’s only those who are not lazy and are prepared to work hard who succeed. Nixon’s generosity has come to the notice of many, including Maxwell Mkhathini, a researcher with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs.
Typically, it is he rather than Nixon who adds: “Mr Tenza also helps people in his community by lending them his tractor and implements, free, to harvest potatoes. He even mows the local school’s soccer fields and lawns for nothing.” When asked what motivates him to perform these good deeds, Nixon iterates that he is simply following Biblical injunctions. “I like to know that I’m doing good for people. I also know that the more I give, the more God will bless me,” he says.
Contact Nixon Tenza on 082 686 5849.
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