Mapoka — For many retirees, retirement means endless hours of idleness.
But such is not the case with Mr Rex Mukokomani.
For the Mapoka-born pensioner, retirement means more time to something he loves; farming.
His undying passion for farming has propelled him to cultivate crops such as finger millet, butter beans, coffee, lablab and sunflower.
These key crops, as he labeled them, are the heartbeat of his small scale commercial farming business, bringing in clients from as far as Francistown, Tonota and the rest of North East District.
To complement his key crops, Mr Mukokomani also plants water melons, marotse, sweet potatoes and maize.
Not only does he plant at his farm, but he has broadened his scope to horticultural farming at his residential home in Mapoka.
Giants trees of morojwa, motsentsela, mophane, palm, Christmas, oranges, mango, banana and apple trees capture one's eye on arrival at Mr Mukokomani's home.
His home is a hub of diverse herbs and plants from mints, mosukujane, aloe vera as well as moringa.
Mr Mukokomani stated that farming ran deep in his veins, having been raised by farmers.
He indicated that growing up in the 60s and 70s, he used to assist his family at the farm, where his keen interest for farming was entrenched.
The former teacher said upon retirement in 2004, he became a full time farmer, starting with small scale horticulture in his backyard.
He explained that one of his area of focus was propagating plants in pods, then selling to whoever was interested in growing plants for decoration, medicinal purposes and consumption.
For Mr Mukokomani, farming is an investment that needs one to stand above the rest, saying he wrote abstracts about his nontraditional crops to give an insight of their nutritional value, benefits and their behaviour.
He highlighted that he started planting sweet potatoes on a smaller scale to sell to Mapoka locals, but soon realised that they were in high demand which prompted him to expand.
The farmer said through Agri-Business Forum and Tonota, Tutume and Masunga (Totuma) Commercial Farmers Association, he met other farmers and clients who showed interest in sweet potatoes.
Mr Mukokomani stated that between April and May he harvested three quarter hectare of sweet potatoes and supplied the COVID-19 food relief programme in Mapoka and surrounding villages.
The pensioner said he supplied schools in Mapoka, Moroka and Francistown with watermelons and melons in March, before the schools closed due to lockdown.
He said he harvested from 20 orange trees and seven naartjie trees and sold to individuals during lockdown.
"Farming has a lot of potential to generate wealth because every year, we plough and reap provided we follow proper farm practices," he stressed.
During one of Totuma field days in Tonota, Mr Mukokomani said, he discovered coffee from one of the farmers who came to showcase his harvest and he bought the seeds and planted it in his backyard garden in 2018.
In 2019/2020 ploughing season, he said, he expanded his scope and planted a larger portion of coffee at his farm, where he reaped 25kg for seedlings.
He stated that he was interested in conducting thorough research about the coffee, before he could venture into larger scale farming.
Mr Mukokomani said he believed in educating himself about all his crops, so that he was well versed and prepared.
He highlighted that a visit to NFTRC was imminent to test the coffee, determine its nutritional value, before he could expand the coffee business.
He stressed that farming needed one to be committed and principled in following the best farming practices to reap rewards.
He said farming also required one to plan ahead of every ploughing season and prepare for uncertainties like unreliable rainfall and harsh weather conditions.
He emphasised the importance of pesticides, which he noted was one aspect many farmers did not invest in.
Source : BOPA