Northern Cape's farming maverick: Edwin Mabotsa's dream of farming bears fruit

Northern Cape's farming maverick: Edwin Mabotsa's dream of farming bears fruit

- Edwin Mabotsa’s own family tried to dissuade him in his plan to establish himself as a farmer in a small Northern Cape mining town

- Mabotsa, however, wouldn’t be put off his dream built on his deep belief that farming can be used to uplift the community

- When Mabotsa started farming in the area it was still a taboo and many believed the only way to make money was by working on mines in the predominately mining town of Windsorton

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They thought him crazy, a renegade, a maverick, a dreamer. No one expected that someday Edwin Mabotsa would be farming at the scale that would see his farm producing thousands of cucumbers each week to a leading supermarket chain. gathers that Mabotsa had a dream of farming and the will not to give up despite seemingly overwhelming odds stacked against him.

The writing on the wall for the mines which were the lifeblood of the community for so many years seemed a clear indication to Mabotsa that he had to do something different to save the community.

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"My community, where I grew up in Windsorton is predominantly a mining area, mining was the heartbeat and then I realised that we need to focus on other things especially agriculture, given the availability of land in my area, [and] the availability of water," he explained, admitting that even his family was not keen on the idea of him starting a cooperative.

"They were not supporting the idea that much because they felt that you once you finish school, you must go and look for work, because starting an enterprise is not an easy".

When the mines, inevitably, did close, many of the locals were left unemployed. "The miners were not investing back into the community and then the mining was fading away. Even now, there are no mining activities in Windsorton and it is a problem because young people are unemployed and moved out of the area," said Mabotasa.

Today Mabotsa has built a successful cucumber farm and has supplies Shoprite almost 8400 cucumbers a week as he has been for the past decade which he said makes him feel like he has beaten the odds. He is delighted that he didn’t give up on his dream. "The rewarding part is when people did not believe that this could happen in an area like this, Windsorton. Nothing is happening of great significance, but at least this particular farm is putting our area on the map," he added.

Asked about the current issue of land expropriation he expresses his hopes that expropriated land be given to individuals who are passionate about farming. "When land is given to black people we must make sure that the land works. It does not help, you give the land to the people and the land is not being used."

His initial dream achieved, he is building on the next step and hopes to expand his enterprise when an opportunity arises. He is in the process of gaining ownership of the land he farms. "Hopefully, I will be owning the land come August this year, it has been quite a difficult battle to get the land."

In 1999 he made presentations to various government departments including the municipality and eventually struck a deal whereby he would be given land if he excels at farming. "They gave us something in writing that said if the programme is a success they will donate the land to us and then based on that they kept their promise. There are still processes going on, when those are done then the land will be in the name of the enterprise," he explained.

His enterprise, Tshwaraganang Hydroponics cooperative, provides permanent employment for 10 workers and casual work for four others. He was able to draw on assistance he received from a value chain development organisation, the Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP) which seeks to work towards enhancing the growth in the African indigenous plant products to reduce poverty and hunger.

While Mabotsa never studied agriculture, once a feasibility study was carried out by ASNAPP, they provided him with a mentor who could help him with technical know-how.

READ ALSO: How 1 Limpopo farmer built a business to boost his community

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