When it comes to challenges, the resilient Vicky Mhlanga from Ludlow in Mpumalanga faces them head-on and keeps going. Nothing will deter her from her love for farming and contributing to the food security in her village.
Mhlanga says growing up in a farming family, where on weekends she used to help her father irrigate the crops, made her fall in love with agriculture.
“It has not been an easy journey for me. I started with nothing, however persistence and the love of seeing things grow kept me growing,” she says.
Mhlanga owns a one-hectare farm where she farms with chickens. Having started with only 400 chicks, she now has 1 500 chickens.
Not one, but two break-ins
“I experienced two break-ins this year in five months. [With] the first break-in, they did not get anything on the farm as we had already sold the chickens we had. It was sad to see that when you try to make a living and create jobs, people will want to ruin that,” the 26-year-old says.
With the second break-in, her two brothers fought off the intruders and called for community back-up, she explains.
“It has been a very traumatic experience to realise that one is a target, however, it has not broken my spirit. I believe these challenges will make me stronger and continue farming.”
Multitasking, with a little help
“I am a beginner who has big farming dreams. After plenty of contemplation, I decided to start farming this year. I am also a teacher who teaches mathematical literacy at the local high school.”
Thankfully, she has others she can rely on for help and support.
“I am being assisted by my brother Dankie Mhlanga, and Kgontsi Mokwena. They are at the farm daily and operate the farm.”
According to Mhlanga, she could have started farming much earlier if she had the exposure and correct advice when she finished grade 12.
The BSc in physical and mineral science graduate from the University of Limpopo says though she wanted to further her studies in agriculture, she had a fear of not knowing where she would work afterwards.
“I think not being exposed to opportunities or even taking a gap year to think things through delayed my farming journey a bit.”
A lack of water is the biggest frustration that Mhlanga faces which forces her to dock up to R2 400 a month for water for her chickens.
“We have a river next to our farm but with the little rain that we have received, the river is dry and the water is polluted. It is not safe to give it to the chickens without proper testing.
“I also have to spend money on transport as my customers resell the chickens, so I have to deliver in nearby villages. As a beginner and with everything coming from my pocket, it is hard, but we keep going,” she says.
Although her market is stable, Mhlanga says that operational costs are pushing her to increase her unit prices in the coming year.
“It is tough because the feeds prices are going up. I know I am only starting and cannot expect to make a profit, however the operational costs are making it difficult for one to keep going without increasing the prices.”
Plans for the future
Mhlanga says she intends on expanding in the following year and raise money to get a borehole and equipment for her farming operations.
“It has been a journey and I have learned a lot. I have made a lot of mistakes, but my brother who is 20 years old, has held my hand all the way. When I felt like giving up, he refused, and we kept going.
“He constantly reminds me that we have to face challenges to be able to get where we want to go. So having him support me is a big boost, especially in trying times.”
Mhlanga says the biggest step that any person can take is to start with what they have and build from that.
“Go big or go home with nothing, take risks, and hope for the best. Getting started is the greatest milestone coupled with passion and patience.”
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