Errol April: The MK veteran beat his sword into a plough and became a successful farmer

Errol April: The MK veteran beat his sword into a plough and became a successful farmer

- The laid back former veteran has turned a farm on the edge of failure into a garden of Eden

- He has shown that it is possible for black farmers to succeed but that it requires cooperation from experienced white farmers

- Errol April is proof that farming can be sustainable and bring food security to the country

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Errol April is a former uMkhonto weSizwe combatant and one of the few black South Africans to receive land formerly owned by a white farmer. He belongs to the even smaller group of successful black farmers. learned that in 2013 he started his farm after his application to the Department of Rural Development for a farming project had been successful. With a friend and fellow uMkhonto weSizwe veteran, he started farming apples and what he knew then could fit on the back of an envelope according to the

Today he is somewhat of an expert when it comes to the delicious fruit.

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He does not own the land but has a long-term lease which allows him to farm the land with an option to eventually buy the land from the government.

He had not planned on farming apples but when he found out that he had received a fruit farm he was crestfallen, he didn't know anything about apples.

“We thought we would be looking after sheep or cattle,” he says ruefully. “In our research, we found out that fruit farming… it’s quite a difficult one. You need endurance. You need strength.”

The farm is christened Amanzi and lies not far from the small town of Greyton in the Western Cape. The 30,000 hectares are filled with fruit trees. The farm has a slightly ironic name, Amanzi means water in English and in a province suffering from its worst drought in 100 years it is buzzing with life.

April struggles to hide the disbelief that he feels, he never thought something so perfect could exist, he describes the farm as magic.

When he took over the farm it was not in its best condition, it was limping by. He recalls those scary days when the entire project was on the brink of failure but he persevered and stuck with it. There were times, however, when he was filled with doubt.

Philip Toerien was appointed Aprils mentor by the Department of Agriculture and was also the financial director of the Two-a-Day group, a fruit giant.

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When Toerien first saw April he thought he was looking at another failure, he had never been so mistaken in his life.

April, in just four short years, won the 2017 Novice Award from Hortgro, the deciduous fruit growers’ organisation. April achieved this by bringing the farm's debt down from R2.5-million to just R650 000 and increased the revenue from R2.9-million to R6.4-million.

Added to this, April's workers earn well above the minimum wage and 20% of the profits that farm makes is held in a trust for the workers.

One of the reasons that April has succeeded is that he has listened to those who are trying to help him and has run the farm well.

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