South Africa: Cow dung turns abandoned land into thriving farm (GroundUp)

| May 30, 2016

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Albert Zinhanga and his five friends may be new to farming, but they are successful. Their first piece of land was an abandoned tract on a farm in Malmesbury, 70 kilometres north of Cape Town, which they turned into a profitable business.

They first spotted the land when traveling from Cape Town to buy an ox for slaughter. The landowner told Mr. Zinhanga that he had given up farming the land because he had lost more than one million Rand ($64,000 US). He was told that he would have to invest a further 300,000 Rand ($19,000 US) to correct the pH balance of the soil. In response, he switched to rearing sheep, cattle, and pigs elsewhere on the farm.

The two parties struck a deal. Mr. Zinhanga and his friends were given permission to farm the land rent-free for one year, using the landowner’s equipment and only paying for electricity.

The challenge was set.

Mr. Zinhanga is a teacher of African languages at Cravenby High School in Parow, near Cape Town. His friends have degrees in agriculture, physics, science, and engineering. Mr. Zinhanga says, “We never dreamt or even thought that one day we will be farmers…. We were just a group of academics driving around buying farm products.” But he was confident in their venture.

The group’s first task was to test the soil and water. Both were fine, although the soil was sandy. So the men watered continuously before planting tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, and maize—three hectares in total.

Neighbouring farmers offered plenty of advice and introduced them to Cape Town Epping Market to sell their produce.

Mr. Zinhanga says the farmers were stunned when their maize ripened. They had never seen such huge stalks. The secret: using cow dung in addition to fertilizer, says Mr. Zinhanga.

He and his friends now own 15 hectares, having purchased their initial three from the landowner for 1,200 Rand ($77 US) per hectare. They still have their full-time jobs, but work weekends on the farm and hire extra labour. They have been rewarded for their efforts with a thriving farm business.

To top it all off, they received the small business of the year award from the Cape Town Zimbabwe Excellence Gala Dinner Award Ceremony.

To read the full article on which this story is based, Zimbabweans Make Thriving Farm on Abandoned Land, go to: http://allafrica.com/stories/201605050724.html