Throughout history, men wanted to conquer. Google is filled with examples of pioneers, cutting open a success, bit by bit. Success is seen as different things by different people…. It all depends on what is important to you.
I am 100% sure other people would have started their project way different than we did, but there was one thing that gave us little room to maneuver and that was the severe drought in 2015-2016 that hit Southern Africa. The internet was filled with heart breaking pleas of farmers from the northern parts of South Africa. Feed was shipped in road trains from the Western Cape to try and keep dying animals alive in the hope that rain would come. Songs where written, concerts by well known artists like Adam Tas were held to raise funds for regions that became deserts.
The drought wasn’t hitting us so hard, yet and we had to make a plan before our cattle was those you saw on Facebook, pleading for food and water. We had to get the farm ready for cattle in record time so that we could start importing animals and relieve the pressure we felt in SA. Here laid hectares of unspoiled vegetation, food, glorious food for our precious animals.
We went through our options this way and that way. Because we are Bonsmara stud breeders it wasn’t as simple as sell everything in SA and buy new breeding stock in Mozambique. We spend years in breeding this particular type of Bonsmara. It was a case of eat, pray, dreamed and lived Bonsmara for years, how could we just sell them and lose all that work, passion, breeding? It was very important for us to get the genetics here, in Mozambique. The cattle price in SA reached record lows because of the overflow of animals that couldn’t be fed anymore due to the drought, so it would also be a bad financial decision to sell the animals there and try and replace them here in Mozambique.
What to do first?
The very first thing we had to do was erect fences and get a good reliable water supply. Eugene spent nights on google maps planning the water supply and layout of his camp system. But before anything, there had to be water. I still think this was the best part of the whole process for him. He had a blank canvas to play with. He could design everything exactly to his vision, not make do with someone else’s vision.
We used Dirk Engelbercht to drill for water. Here is a video of the last hole we drilled in 2018 He is well known all over Mozambique and Mozambique is well known to him. He and his wive have traveled all over Mozambique drilling holes in the most remote places. Camping where ever they went. We were lucky enough to get water exactly where we wanted and good sweet water to sweeten the deal.
We had to do all this development on a very tight budget and at first we reckoned that a generator would be the best option to pump water. Our biggest problem was building water troughs fast and effectively. Eugene managed to build a mould from an old diesel tank with the help of a neighbor in SA. This we used to cast the water troughs.
Excited we started to lay the pipes from the mainline to complete the network. We had to return to SA and upon our return the first load of cattle had to accompany us.
There was little progress while we were away. Although we were gutted we had to make this work. The cattle was on their way.
Eugene started pumping water with the generator, but soon we realized that the troughs didn’t fill fast enough for all the thirsty mouths and most of the pipes was still above ground which gave the cattle January-warm drinking water.
We hired piece workers to bury the pipes as fast as humanly possible, it felt like ages before the pipes was covered and the cattle could get cool water.
We were still awaiting the arrival of Selma, so Wessel and I stayed in SA to wait and take care of the cattle in SA while Eugene traveled up and down trying to juggle everything in the air.
Soon, very soon we realized that the generator wasn’t just uneconomical, it was unreliable! More often than not, Eugene had to rush the 1100km back to Mabote because the generator broke and that meant no water in the summer for the cattle!
To go solar or not.
After going back to the drawing board and budgets we realized that we can equip the borehole with a solar system for the same amount of 8 month’s diesel. We got our friend and solar specialist, Jurie Jacobs in to design a solar system for our needs and within a couple of days our problems was solved! I remember posting on Facebook that I can not believe how happy seeing is bakkie made me feel! There was little growing pain here and there, but it was more human error than anything else. I still feel going solar was the best decision we could have made and we still run everything on the farm from solar power.
While we were on the solar topic, we installed a solar system at the community bore hole. They had a hand pump and we just felt, a solar system there will enhance their quality of living. Now whenever you drive through the community you can see vegetable gardens because they have a constant supply of water.
We experimented with pressure pumps to get the water all over the farm, but in the end we decided we should drill 2 more holes on the farm to make sure we have ample water supply.
Water is something most us take for granted every day. It is the one thing that all living creatures are dependent on. In Mozambique there are 1000’s of hectares uninhabited and unused because there isn’t a water supply. When a farm or a ranch is established a whole new life starts for that area, because with a farmer comes water supply.