Elliott farmer is living his dream

Cindy Preller

A HERDER’S dream of one day owning his own farm has come true for a commercial farmer from Elliot. When Mninawa Hargreaves Qotoyi, 45, looks over the cattle grazing on the rolling green hills on the farm Bratachsith, nestled between Elliot and Indwe, he takes pride knowing they are his animals growing fat on his land.

This knowledge keeps Qotoyi going in the freezing winter months.

Despite commercial farmers like Qotoyi having to face not only the challenges of the natural elements, but also labour issues and tough economic times in the country, he keeps going from strength to strength.

“I grew up on a subsistence, communal farm in Engcobo. As a young boy, when I looked after the cattle as a herd boy I dreamt of owning my own farming land.

“So when my time came in 2002 to own my own farm, I knew that I could realise my boyhood dreams. It is this passion that keeps me going in the farming business.”

Qotoyi heard about his first farm, Canna, in a place where many good business ideas are born – in a bar.

“I was working in the entertainment industry and got chatting to someone in a bar. I started leasing a part of his land and later rented the farm.

“Eventually I bought the farm, Canna, and initially farmed with sheep and cattle.”

Before going into farming full-time in 2002, Qotoyi worked for Unilever SA in the distribution department and later for SA Breweries for more than 10 years. He also owned his own entertainment business, which made money through renting out pool tables and jukeboxes to taverns and bars.

However, in his heart he knew he always wanted to farm and in 2006 Qotoyi sold Canna to buy his “dream” 786 ha farm, Bratachsith, from Steve Rowe, originally from the UK.

Today Qotoyi has expanded his small stock farming business by farming with Bonsmara cattle, wool sheep and growing mealies. He employs 10 labourers on the farm and is the only black member of the Indwe-Ida-agricultural union, an affiliate of Agri EC.

When asked about transformation in the farming industry, Qotoyi said he had an amazing relationship with his neighbouring white commercial farmers, who were always eager to help him or offer advice.

“Farming is very hard work but I make sure to plough my money back into the business. I love my animals and enjoy spending time in nature.”

Qotoyi is hoping to realise another dream of his – to make use of an irrigation system on his farm in order to increase his stock capacity and productivity. He also would like to buy more farms in the area.

His wife, Thembi, and three children, aged 14, eight and six, have adapted and started enjoying life on the farm.

For these reasons this former herder won’t easily trade the green Eastern Cape fields for an office any time soon.

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