As much as we encourage young people into farming, you must come armed with knowledge. It is not an ultimate cycler or a get-rich-quick scheme. Farming is a good venture and can multiply your investments a thousandfold. However, it can also go bad, real quick.
Social media is full of stories of success in farming. Others are not farmers but will pose on farms to chase clout. Farming is not rosy. The risks in farming include diseases, market flooding, high costs against low yields and an ever-changing climate.
Although we have success stories, few negatives are posted. The pursuit of feeling successful and showing off on social media overshadows the daily failures. Whenever losses strike, it is the very point at which we differentiate real farmers and “wannabe” farmers.
A real farmer will endure the risks, learn from them, pick up the pieces, and replan while staying focused on the goal. “Wannabe” farmers will abandon farming altogether. Many farmers are quiet about the problems they face in farming. Success stories are good. But let us also show the newcomers what awaits them. All modes of farming, including poultry, crops and livestock have their own unique challenges.
In poultry, you could rear 2 000 broilers, but end up losing up to 1 500 of them. Or, you could rear 500 layers, but at seven months only 150 of them could be laying. These might be rounded-off figures, but the reality is much worse than this. Some farmers would start with day-old chicks, which is a good way of getting into chicken farming, but by day five, you might have zero; they have all died. It’s part of the cycle. Come prepared.
One sick chicken in a flock can wipe out everything. You will get stuck with mature dying chickens with no buyer. That is the scope of chicken farming. It might be easier to start, but you must be prepared to mitigate these risks. Find innovative ways of countering them.
Livestock farming, on the other hand, has an equal – if not worse – impact on profitability. The common denominator in livestock farming losses is poor grazing, and the fact that Namibia is the driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa does not help the situation much. Be prepared for long spells of drought, where you would have to feed the livestock out of the pocket.
Feeds and licks are not cheap, let alone correct vaccines for healthy livestock. So, be prepared; this is no walk in the park. The best way is to put a little away during the days of good grazing. Also, save some money from the animals you sell off so that could help during the trying times.
Crop farming is as old as the sun. It has the best potential to literally feed the farmer and the community around him. But, just like other forms of agriculture, it also has challenges of its own.
Farming is an investment like any formal business. Start marketing your product even before you see it. Get contacts. Be careful with brokers; they are barriers to accessing markets but are also the key to getting your trusted customers. Don’t harvest if you don’t want brokers. While using any chemicals be careful; some crops like melons require specific sprays. Dry your produce well and use recommended preservatives if storing for long.
All in all, a real farmer must develop a thick skin. Many examples are out there of farmers encountering 100% losses or more. Farming is not for the fainthearted, but it is also not impossible to pull off.