I first met Gift Mafuleka in 1999 at the Tshwane University of Technology, in Pretoria, South Africa, where we were agronomy students. Gift is from Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa where he says his love for farming started as a young boy inspired by his grandfather who was a subsistence farmer.
We were young, with big and sometimes unrealistic dreams. But while Gift’s dreams were more unrealistic (he wanted to go into commercial farming of vegetables), I knew then that there was something in his spirit that would get him there.
Fast forward almost 20 years and Gift Mafuleka is one of the young farmers who is participating to strengthen the voice of young people at the 3rd Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3), in Johannesburg, South Africa. But let’s go back to the story of how he got here.
After we both graduated with degrees in agriculture, specialising in crop production, I didn’t see Gift for a couple of years. But sure enough our paths crossed again in 2006 when we were both Plant Breeding Technicians at the Agricultural Research Council’s Grain Crops Institute. I was working on indigenous crops and Gift was working on sorghum breeding.
Two years passed and Gift joined McCain Foods South Africa as a farm manager producing potatoes and green peas. His mission was to access mentorship and training support, gain some practical farming experience and grow his farming networks.
Thanks to a combination of opportunities presented by the public and private sector, his hard work, dedication and passion meant his childhood dream of commercial farming was fast becoming a reality. In 2009, Gift started “Mphiwe Siyalima Enterprises” where he produces maize (600 ha), vegetables (110 ha) and semi-intensive beef cattle (150 livestock units on 200 ha).
This young man has cracked into one of the toughest sectors in South Africa and in many ways outperformed even his own expectations. While he has struggled to make profit, he says the farm became self sustaining three years later and he continues to push for efficiency on the commodities under production.
In his second year in production, Gift won the the National New Harvest (Emerging Farmer) hosted by toyota South Africa. Since then he’s been recognized by various stakeholders in the South African agriculture industry, including winning the Young Farmer of the year by Gauteng Provincial Department of Agriculture in 2013, Young Agricultural Entrepreneur by the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)s in 2014.
Gift has been elected by fellow emerging commercial farmers to serve in the Board of Directors of Potatoes South Africa (PSA) as well as the Executive Management of Grain South Africa (Grain SA). He participates extensively in various agricultural forums and groups in the African continent to expand his networks, broaden his knowledge and gain exposure.
Over the years, Gift has never stopped trying to entice me into becoming a farmer. But instead I’ve pursued my passion for research and am currently doing a PhD on Climate Change Policy Evaluation at the University of Cape Town.
I always visit Gift and his lovely wife Salome who live on the farm with their three beautiful children Kuhle, Thando and Ndalo. Gift says they have developed their own love and passion for farming business.
His lease for the farm expires in 2021 after which he will be eligible to buy the farm from the state. He hopes to hand over his farm to his children. He argues that “people must eat no matter what” and as such there is no better gift to give to your family than an asset that will feed them but also generate income for generations to come.
Blogpost, video and photo by Sandile Ngcamphalala, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – NgcamphalalaS(at)arc.agric.za
This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.