From left to right: Amon Chauke, Pinky Chauke and Amos Chauke
Mkharo Irrigating Scheme co-op is a family established farm situated in Shikundu in Northern Limpopo, east of Thohoyandou and just west of the Kruger National Park. Amos Chauke, his wife Pinky and son Amon established their 14ha farm from scratch, and with their own funding over the last five years.
Amos's parents were small-scale farmers in the area, and growing up he saw how his father went about his farming business.
“To become a farmer was always a dream of mine. I hope that my son will take over from me
“One of my subjects at school was agriculture and I loved this as a subject. I wish that I could have attended Agricultural College after high school but there was no funding for this and I had to get a job.”
After completing high school Amos worked in the electrical division of the Department of Public Works in the former Gazankulu homeland, where he received electrical apprenticeship training in order to work as an electrical technician. Later he moved to Waterval Township in Limpopo where he also worked in the electrical division of the Department of Public Works and grew vegetables in his back yard.
“I turned sixty in 2010 and wanted to live my dream of farming in my retirement. I came back home to this area and approached the local headman (tribal leader) in the area and put forward my request for farming land. The council was willing to assist me, and so I scouted the area for suitable land for vegetable and fruit production. Once I had identified the land we went to the tribal office to confirm that I had received permission to start farming on this land.”
Amos’s application was successfully processed through the Agricultural Office of the Department of Home Affairs and he received certification of the process. The farm is 14ha in total with 7.5ha of this area being citrus, namely Bahianinha and Late Navels, Midnight and Delta Valencias, Thambo Clementines and Empress Mandarins. Vegetables such as chillies, cabbages and okra are grown on the remaining land to assist with cash flow. In the citrus orchards. The family also have a herd of cattle.
Amos and his wife Pinky have established the farm to this point with the capital of their own, and without any outside financial assistance. They have not received any loans or grants.
“It has been tough going at times as the finances are a constant battle. Farming is very risky and we rely on God for his providence and we are now living from hand to mouth. If the Development Chamber could assist us with setting up a business plan with which we could access funding this could make all the difference to us.”
“We do have the opportunity to develop more land but water security is currently our biggest limiting factor. We use borehole water and have no dam or stream to tap and the drought we are experiencing is causing big problems for us. If we had a storage dam this would solve this problem for us. Besides water, our other need would be a small packhouse to pack our fruit.”
“I believe that there is good business opportunities in agriculture but I will caution that you must have the necessary knowledge and capital available before you start farming. There are four important issues to consider before starting and these are water, development and running capital, input costs and markets. Farming is tough, but I am passionate about farming and my wife is very supportive. Farming is a long-term investment but we believe that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
At 31 years of age, Amon has been a great help to his parents in establishing the farm and has been involved over the course of the last five years. After matriculating from Waterval High near Makhado in 2003, he completed a certificate course in Civil Engineering at the FET College at Polokwane followed by a certificate course in Electrical Engineering at the FET College in Giyani.
“I enjoy my involvement on the farm and as a result of the knowledge I have from my studies I am able to apply this on the farm.”
Amos Chauke is rightly proud of the beautiful farm that they have managed to establish with their own capital, however, the current drought is playing havoc with their productions and is severely straining their cash flow. The family is concerned about the future.