After being retrenched from Medupi Power Station in Lephalale in Waterberg last year, Mr Ishmael Khotoana solely relies on backyard farming to earn a living. The father of three would not know where to go if it were not for the backyard gardening which he started as a hobby whilst still Medupi Power Station’s employee.

Last year’s income from the garden produce has given him the dream to expand his farming. “However, I do not have enough land to realise my dream. If I had land, I would produce a lot to feed the nation.

“Since last year, I have been negotiating with a fellow resident to release her unused plot to me. I am frustrated because an agreement is not reached to date,” indicates Khotoane.

The Ga-Seleka4 resident grows a variety of crops such as spinach, cabbage, green pepper, beetroot, tomato, carrot, onion, maize and others in 30 x 25 meter area. His passion for crop production was demonstrated when he was still working. After work and at weekends, he worked the backyard garden and used an electric light in the evening.

Now that he is unemployed, he would do better even in a larger scale of operation, he puts it. He hopes the local traditional leadership will one day help him find additional land.

The harvest does not only end in the dishes of his family, as it is sold to the local community from the farm gate and supplied to two local spaza shops. Despite farming on a smallest plot, the Ubuntu rooted in the African genes, makes him give carrots to some locals for free.

Insect-pests show no mercy to any famer, therefore the farmer takes steps to control them. The gardener says, “Insect pests are problematic and damage the crop if allowed to do so. I follow the spray programme.

“I get advice from the local Agricultural Advisor and the cooperative. Before, I could not describe insect-pests, but since working with Agricultural Advisor I do.”

Water is drawn from the household borehole to the furrow irrigation system that waters the crops. Applying both organic and inorganic manure also adds value to the crops of this gardener who dreams to be a commercial farmer.

Hopefully, the expression that says, ‘Where there is a will, there is way,” will indeed pave the way for Khotoana whose backyard farming is already the employer of two workers.

Source: Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Author: Samson Mabunda

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