From left to right: Extension Officer, Melton Mulaudzi, with Siseko Maqoma
Siseko Maqoma is in his early 40’s, and farms with citrus on his beautiful farm Gonzana on the banks of the Kat River near Blinkwater, north-west of Fort Beaufort. He is also the chief of the Jingqi Traditional Community and has a deep sense of caring and responsibility towards his people.
Siseko grew up on a farm near Alice as his father had a cattle farm in the Thume Valley in the old Ciskei Homeland. A short while before he matriculated from Woodridge College in 1993 his father bought a citrus farm. As he was quite elderly already, Siseko joined him on the farm to assist with the production and has been farming since 1995. Since then both of his parents have passed away.
“At the time, the farm had 20ha of navels and clementines. Initially, it took some adjusting for me to properly get to grips with citrus farming but fortunately at the time there were several production practices courses offered by Outspan. (Outspan was the single channel export marketing company for the Citrus Industry prior to the industry’s deregulation in the late 1990’s). We also received good technical support from Capespan’s extension officers who regularly assisted us on the farms and this was a great help, particularly in those early years.”
The total size of Gonzana is 54ha, all of which is arable. During the past few years, the orchards have been increased from the original 20ha to 30ha and Siseko is planning to plant the remaining 23ha within the next 3 to 4 years.
“We are keeping up with new varieties as in 2014 we planted some nardorcotts. I want to plant more of the new sought-after varieties as we need to increase the returns from what we receive for the traditional varieties. Currently, our season is from May to August. Through expansion I would also like to extend the harvest season, to start earlier with soft citrus and end later, also with soft citrus and lemons.”
Gonzana has eight permanent staff and employs temporary workers during the season to help bring in the harvest.
“My advice to young people who are considering farming with citrus is that it is important to do your homework regarding what resources you will need before you start. Citrus farming is very challenging and long-term and the cash flow also needs to be long-term. To finance this there has to be good funding or diversified cash crops to bring in the required funds. The infrastructural requirements are considerable and input costs are expensive and can increase rapidly over a short period. A good example of this is that last year a seedling cost R35.00 and this year it costs R42.00. When you are planning to plant several hectares, an increase like this can make a big difference to your cash flow. Fortunately, if you have an interest in farming there is good support from the CRI support officer in the area.”
“Eden Agri Services Packhouse packs our citrus and we market through SAFPRO. Eden Agri Services Packhouse is about 3km from the farm and is owned and run by Shaun Brown. I started packing with him from the first year he established the packhouse. We work very well together and I see it in our co-operation as a partnership.”
A number of farmers in the area do not yet have title deeds to their farms. This is a huge problem, one which has not been resolved since the area was part of the former Ciskei. Despite many years of trying, Siseko is one of the farmers that still does not have title deeds to his property after twenty years.