It has been a long time since I have shared my views with all of you.
It has been hectic!!

What has been on my mind of late is the word ” FOCUS”.
The South African Oxford dictionary gives the first definition of the word “focus” as “the centre of interest or activity”.
The best example of what the state of focus is is when driving in the busy traffic of Johannesburg during peak period. You need absolute focus to survive in this traffic. Any slight distraction would result in an accident and one would not reach his or her destination. The accident could be fatal or cause injuries or damage to the vehicle. It just takes a slight seconds to loose focus!

Business is like driving in the heavy Johannesburg traffic, particularly the Agricultural business.
One needs to focus on his or her goals, whether short term or long term! Focus on the road ahead!!!
There are many distraction on the way that could make one loose focus. This is particularly so in agriculture as it is a 24/7 business. There is no time to take a breather or brake. You go on and on and on ……
One needs to focus as you do not know what is in the next curve ahead. It could be the cattle falling sick, it could be that you are running short of feed for the animals, you could experience theft of equipment, animals or crop by external people or employees. You could experience work stoppages by employees, etc.
The list of things to distract and discourage are too many.
It is therefore important to focus on your business and your enterprise. Do not be discouraged!!
If you are 100% focused, then nothing will surprise you. You will anticipate things and plan ahead!
Remember, no challenge in your farm is unique or new. Somebody else has experienced the problem before and has dealt with it before you!!
Focus on what you want to achieve! Be careful not to focus on too many things. Otherwise, you loose focus!
Choose one or two things that you want to achieve and definitely not more than four things that you should achieve. Two could be short term and the other two cold be long term!
If you have many things you want to focus on, then put them in writing and start scratching those that are not necessary! The fewer, the better!!
” Less is more”!!!
Happy farming with good focus!

Velaphi Ratshefola

Working hand in hand to achieve radical transformation together

Hi Friends,
I thought in my second series of the blog that I will be writing every month, I should write or talk about an important, but emotional topic of land transformation with a particular emphasis on agriculture.
For me, I believe that for us to make progress and ensure sustainable development in our country there are two competing concepts and ideas that we need to balance.
Firstly, we need to ensure that agriculture is sustainable for the short, medium and long-term basis. Whilst this is not politically correct for now, unfortunately the work of economics and financials requires stability and predictability. It does not respond well to surprises, shocks and lack of predictability.
This means, for our agricultural industries to succeed, we need to maintain the presence of large and successful farmers, whether black or white. They have skills, resources and scale to ensure that our agriculture sector can compete with the best in the world. South Africa should not be importing food. We have good farmers in our country that we can double the export for agriculture business.
To bring revenue in our country, whilst creating employment for South Africans, we therefore need to be telling big farmers that we love you, we will protect you and we will help you grow!
The idea that we will take land without compensation does not hold well in ensuring sustainability and for prosperity. If I were a large farmer and white, I would be hesitant to invest further in agriculture if I were to hear talks of nationalisation or the taking of land without compensation. We need to reassure these farmers of their future if we want to compete with the best in the world.
Secondly, we need to drive radical transformation. It is clear that we need to have an inclusive agricultural sector. If we are not inclusive, we will be like a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode. We need to create more opportunity and see more involvement from the middle class people within the agricultural sector. We need to see more black people moving up in the agricultural sector.
For me, the term “radical transformation” is not necessarily just about the time it takes to achieve transformation or to transform the sector. Of course, we must aim to achieve transformation and fast as possible. However, for me, radical means we have to come up with different and innovative ideas. We cannot continue doing the same thing and expect a different outcome.
Large farmers need to commit to transfer skills to emerging farmers in a real and practical way. They need to share their resources with emerging farmers in their neighbourhoods. They need to invest time and resources to ensure that the few emerging farmers in their neighbourhoods are successful. The success of the emerging farmers is the guarantee of stability and a future for large farmers.
Thirdly, there are vast tracks of land that belong to government. Through land recapitalisation, government bought more land. A small piece of this land is being rented out to few black emerging famers, like myself.
The government should be selling this land at affordable prices and rates to black emerging farmer. The concept of long 20-year leases by the government does not make sense.
Government should put emerging black farmers onto available government land. They need to emerging farmers a 3 to 5 year lease with clear, upfront criteria for success. When these emerging farmers meet the criteria for success they need to be able to buy the land at reasonable prices so that they can have a stake in the game. Not just, give it for free.
Anything given for free (in most cases) is not valued by the recipient. In addition, the government does not have never-ending resources to give people farms for free forever.
As said above, the large-scale farmers, particularly the white farmers must help black emerging farmers to be successful.
Finance institutions, particularly state owned landing institutions must help black emerging farmers with access to funding. The criteria cannot be based on past success for emerging farmers. It must be based on sound future success based in technical support from experienced large-scale farmers, passion for farming and a clear business plan outlining how one plans to invest, drive productivity and grow the business in the future. The financing institutions need to put monitoring mechanisms in place that will help identify problems very early on and help put in place corrective action. Yes, there will be failures, but I am convinced there will be more success than failures.

Lastly, the government and large farmers need to help emerging farmer’s access the markets, GOOD MARKETS! Black emerging farmers should not have to scramble for poor markets which are fragmented and do not have good margins, we need to ensure that we share the cream of the market with black emerging farmers.
In conclusion, there is a lot of talk about this subject and we do not have enough time to go through all the ideas. Nevertheless, broadly speaking, these are my views; it is about partnership between government and farmers.
It is about partnerships between large-scale farmers and emerging farmers.
It is about partnership between white farmers and black farmers.
It is about partnerships between land/financial institutions.
It is about a partnership between male and female farmers!
Enough for this month!
Velaphi Ratshefola
CEO/Owner – Velarose Family Farm

Lessons from working with people

Seven years ago I hired transport from Kronstadt to buy and deliver bales to our farm. This was in 2011. I had used this white old man before as he was reliable. When he was not able to do it himself, he will send his son.
On this day it was the son that drove. He delivered the grass bales at the farm. But at the time of delivery my workers were elsewhere on the farm mending the fences
The drive off loaded by himself the bales. He then proceeded to load 11 stud cattle onto the truck from the kraals. He waited until it was dark and he drove off. Fortunately, the workers were at their houses by then and they tried to stop him and he refused.
He took the cattle to the auction in Kroonstad. He pretended that it was his.
With the help of Private Investigator from Fedility and friends, the cattle were traced the next day at the Kroonstad auction. He was arrested!!
He pleaded with us and my friends for us to drop the case in exchange for money. We refused! His father pleaded with me. I refused! He delayed the proceedings by changing lawyers three times. The court recordings got lost and the case had to start again with a new magistrate.
Yesterday he was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for stock theft!
Here are the lessons for all of us:
1) crime does not pay.
2) the incident damaged the transport business of the father as people could not trust them anymore. In business it is very difficult to build the reputation and brand but takes seconds to destroy it.
3) to accept money in exchange of dropping the case would be unfair to the police and everybody that help to apprehend the culprit. People should not get away with crime just because the are able to pay their way to freedom. The police and prosecutor did a very good job under trying circumstances. We always criticize them. We must complement when it is appropriate.
4) when we all work together as farmers and the rest of communities, we can defeat the crime epidemic that is facing farmers and the community at large. Together we stand, divided we fall!
5) if he had admitted guilt and shown remorse, the case could have finished early and possibly he could have got a lighter sentence. We as people find it hard to say ” I am sorry!”. This is a small sentence but is only used by people with BIG hearts.
Enough lessons for now!