Two decades of experience culminates in award for KZN farmer

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Phoenix Durban

Marlen Manivasagen Pillay (40) was nominated by Tongaat Hulett’s Darnall Mill on KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast in the small-scale grower category.

A KwaZulu-Natal farmer’s love for nature finally bore fruit when he bagged the coveted ‘KZN Guinea Fowl’ award after gaining 20 years of experience as a third-generation farmer.
Marlen Manivasagen Pillay (40) was nominated by Tongaat Hulett’s Darnall Mill on KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast in the small-scale grower category.
The award recognises, among others, growers who excel in sustainability, soil, conservation, infrastructure and consistency in the agricultural sector.
Pillay owns and manages Wellvale Farm near Dendethu, KwaDukuza where he also resides.
Sugarcane on Wellvale Farm is produced on a small-scale and vegetables on a commercial scale with broiler production in the pipeline.
He was selected by Tongaat Hulett to complete a year of studies in sugarcane production and field management.
Born into a family of farmers, he drew inspiration from his parents, siblings and staff members who taught him how to handle and rear livestock after school and during school holidays.
“In 1940, my paternal grandfather purchased an eight-hectare plot in Durban after having served his period of indenture at the Mt Edgecombe and Tinley Manor sugar mills which belonged to Tongaat Hulett. Thereafter, he built a wood and iron dwelling for his family of 10 who later farmed to sustain themselves. The dwelling is now a modern house,” said Pillay.

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At a young age, he accompanied his mother every Saturday morning to the local fresh produce market where he gained valuable knowledge and experience about trading.
“My mother would take care of the sale of vegetable produced on the farm while my father handled the transportation of sugarcane to the mill,” he added.
Pillay has a Diploma in Horticulture and Landscape Technology from Technikon Natal, now known as Durban University of Technology.
He explained, “We currently afford 17 full-time employees a living, with 26 casual staff members also employed over the festive season alongside producing 1 500 tons of sugarcane per year. I see potential in any situation with which I am presented. Offer me a piece of land or veld and watch me raise a crop and harvest food which is the greatest gratification and reward of farming.”
Unpredictability of weather patterns and global climate change have been cited among Pillay’s greatest challenges.
Fortunate enough to attend a research programme three years ago in India, he now plans to implement his own irrigation system into some of the sugarcane fields.
“My advice for upcoming farmers is that farming is not for the faint-hearted and neither is it a get rich scheme. One has to have a passion to farm, work hard and be dedicated,” added Pillay.
He expressed gratitude to Tongaat Hulett for trusting and recognising him as a small-scale grower and supporting him during difficult times.
Pillay also specialises in landscaping services in Ballito, north of Durban, and he is in the process of becoming a certified marriage officer.
Success led him to purchase his neighbour’s land and build a new home for himself and his family.


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