Despite agriculture being one of the least favourable career sectors to pursue, it’s fascinating to see a high level of interest from people wanting to start farming and the most common question people ask me is: how do I start farming? Listed below are the most important factors to consider when venturing into farming and they will serve as a guideline if you have no idea where to begin.
1. Research, Research and Research
If you want to know something about anything, you have to do significant research. Acquaint yourself about the industry by understanding the different role players across the agricultural value chain, farming organisations, learning the different terminologies, challenges and opportunities. Read up on various farmer stories and their journeys, as you can derive great value from those that have walked the path before you. By doing your research you will have some idea of where to begin but most importantly, know if this is something you want to pursue.
2. Look for land
I think we are fortunate in Africa to have vast untapped and arable land. You cannot farm without land and the best places to go to is online property sites or drive around farming communities where you can look for land to purchase or lease, depending on what your budget is. You really don’t have to start big, but you can start farming on a small plot (5ha or less) so that it’s easier to manage and you can grow from there.
3. Water and Soil
Once you have found land the next step is to do your soil and water tests. Let me add by saying that you cannot farm without water. You need to ensure that the land has either a borehole or is located near a river or dam and that you have rights (water license) to use that water. The water analysis will determine the pH of the water and also identify if the water is contaminated or not, and is safe to use on your crops or feed your livestock. If you have a borehole, you need to test that borehole to determine the water capacity per hour that the borehole can deliver. Soil tests are equally important as they help you determine if there are any soil-borne diseases that you may need to rectify before you start planting. It’s always best to know what you are working with to avoid any surprises in future.
Farming is extremely capital intensive and you cannot farm without having some cash in the bank. Therefore, if you have done your research properly, you will have a rough estimation of how much capital is needed to start farming your desired commodity. The capital required will go towards the following: employee salaries, input costs, tools and equipment as well as farm infrastructure i.e: fencing, irrigation, etc. Have a budget and once you start generating revenue, redirect those funds back into your business by improving your farm and its operations.
5. Find Customers
No business exists without clients/customers, therefore if you want to farm, you need to ensure that there is a demand for your product. Going back to research, identify and speak to potential clients, understand their needs, who they are currently procuring from and at what price. Differentiate yourself from the next farmer to ensure that you always have customers.
Good luck and I look forward to hearing your feedback.