Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
AFTER being allocated land under the Government’s land reform programme, Mr Kalani Ndlovu, the owner of the 840-hectare Mjayeli Farm in Umguza District, Matabeleland North Province did not sit on his laurels but made an effort to productively utilise the resource at his disposal.
With just over two years at the farm, Mr Ndlovu has managed to turn the tract of land into serious production.
“We were here just over two years ago and in our first year were putting up our infrastructure which included our irrigation systems, cattle pens, paddocks, quarters for the workers as well as setting-up a hanger for safe keeping our equipment,” he said.
In his second year, Mr Ndlovu moved the cattle into the farm and subsequently embarked on horticultural production.
“In the second year we started production at the farm, starting off by bringing in cattle and ventured into horticultural production where we planted carrots, beetroots, cabbages, tomatoes. Most people that intend to venture into horticulture tend to be pessimistic and always say the market is saturated by big players but we were surprised that there was a market and in actual fact, we were failing to meet the demand,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu also cropped three hectares of maize and realised over three-and-a-half tonnes as well as three tonnes of sorghum from a four-hectare field.
Success from his pilot crop production venture prompted Mr Ndlovu to apply to be considered for the Command Agriculture Programme and he is optimistic that the scheme would play a pivotal part in ensuring that he achieves his goal of turning his farm into a fully-fledged integrated agricultural enterprise.
Integrated production is a whole organic farm management system which aims to deliver more sustainable agriculture. It is a dynamic approach which can be applied to any farming system around the world.
“The success of our horticultural project prompted us to realise that there was a market for any agricultural product hence the reason we applied to be put under Government’s Command Agriculture Programme and we believe this will be the turning point of our agricultural enterprises.
“Through the resultant benefits of Command Agriculture we are now able to do a number of projects which we were not able to do. It was going to take a lot of time for us to realise them. Of course we haven’t harvested but we are assured of potential optimum yields already,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu cropped 14 hectares of maize under the Command Agriculture Programme and expects to harvest more than 100 tonnes.
The Command Agriculture Programme is an agricultural scheme aimed at ensuring food self-sufficiency that was introduced at the start of the 2016- 2017 farming season following the drought of the previous season.
The scheme targeted farmers near water bodies who could put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize per individual. These were found to be 2 000 in total and each farmer was required to produce at least produce 1 000 tonnes of maize. Each participating farmer was required to commit five tonnes per hectare towards repayment of advanced loans in the form of irrigation equipment, inputs and chemicals, mechanised equipment, electricity and water charges. Farmers would retain a surplus product produced in excess of the 1 000 tonnes.
“If only this programme was initiated just after the land reform programme we would have managed to have adequate maize stocks as a country to last us for two to three years after harvesting and we would have been able to export and also have enough for stock feed production. Of course the Command Agriculture Programme is expected to have ripple effects to the economy because prices are going to be influenced on a downward trend through availability of products including beef as stock feed will be cheap,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He also said the country stands to benefit immensely from the resumption of beef exports arguing that: “our beef is of superior quality and organic, which is the one sort by most importing country”.
Mr Ndlovu said his main thrust was to concentrate on cereals, citrus and beef with the enterprises being intertwined and complimenting each other. He said all the crop and livestock residue at the farm would not be discarded but would be utilised to enhance productivity.
“We are looking at using the maize stover as either mature or utilising it to make feed for cattle. The dung realised from the cattle is used to generate power for domestic consumption through our bio gas digester …this means we will be cutting down on costs related to the use electricity from the grid. We also harness solar power thus meaning we don’t rely much on the grid,” said Mr Ndlovu.
The farm has a plantation of 1 500 citrus fruits and plans are already underway to clear an additional four hectares for the planting of more trees.
“We are already opening up four hectares to dedicate to citrus fruits at the moment we have 1 000 orange and 500 mango trees. Our futuristic consideration since it takes about three years for fruit trees to start bearing, we are looking at supplying the fruit processing plant which will be opened in Esigodini.
“In the event we won’t be supplying that particular plant, we have already identified a fruit processing plant for the production of juices and we will add value to the fruit residue through producing stock feed meaning all the waste from the plant will be generated towards feed. Not forgetting that the slurry that will be obtained from the cow dung to generate power is used as manure for the plants, it’s actually more effective than fertilisers,” said Mr Ndlovu.
The enterprising farmer is also looking forward at enhancing his cattle breeding project. There are 130 animals mostly the Braham breed and a number of Nkunis.
“I am looking at embarking in beef production in a big way. Our feeding trusses are ready and we have since identified an area to grow lucien and banner grass to feed our animals,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Mjayeli Farm is home to a state-of-the-art self- contained cattle pen with feeding and drinking points as well as a highly mechanised dip tank facility.
Mr Ndlovu has started preparations for the winter wheat cropping, which he anticipates to undertake under the Command Agriculture Programme.
“We are busy opening up 15 hectares to put under the winter wheat programme. So we need to harvest our maize crop by April because we need 10 hectares from the field to have a total of 25 hectares put under wheat. We have employed an additional 30 people from nearby villages to ensure that we expedite harvesting,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu said his long-term plan was to venture into poultry production.
“In terms of project rollout, I am looking at including chickens but that’s a long-term plan. We have ploughed a lot of money into existing projects so we want to see how much we generate from them and if we can recoup our investment within a set period,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu said beneficiaries of the land reform who are non-productive are doing a disservice to the Government and the country at large.
“Usually you can’t keep land lying idle when the country is spending most of its financial resources importing food. If one doesn’t have the capacity they should dispose some of their assets and inject money into farming and reap the rewards later.
“There is no way we can condone under usage of land. So if we are going to be lazy and rely on importing yet there is plenty of arable land, it’s a disaster. Yes! There are natural calamities, we can scream when these come across us,” said Mr Ndlovu.