ARTVILLA SANELE DAKAMELA - Winner- Second Runner up-  General - 2023

ARTVILLA SANELE DAKAMELA - Winner- Second Runner up- General - 2023

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ARTVILLA SANELE DAKAMELA  Second Runner up-  General - 2023

Hollard Insure and and Agri News Net - Young Agri Writers awards

Empowering Agriculture: The Vital Role of On-Farm Electricity Generation Amid Eskom's Challenges


“Fraud and corruption are the biggest enemies of progress at Eskom. It is the most important issue to fix Eskom to get the maintenance program back on track,” a comment made, during NERSA’s electricity price determination methodology webinar, by Rhulani Mathebula, Eskom’s former acting group executive for generation, who resigned 6 months after being appointed to the position.

The reality is that Eskom has been wrestling with issues such as ageing infrastructure, scarce maintenance, financial limitations, and technical problems. These issues faced by Eskom resulted in recurrent power outages and load-shedding, which significantly impacted agricultural businesses, from subsistence farms to those operated on larger scales, and the overall South African economy.

Picture a day when farming activities are proceeding seamlessly, and machinery is operating efficiently – a perfect day on the farm – when suddenly, there’s an abrupt silence, and the machines cease to make any sound. The farmer must halt his operations during this truly exceptional day due to yet another wave of load-shedding. Financial consequences are to follow as a result of decreased productivity, rising expenditure, and potential crop and product losses. However, these financial repercussions can be significantly mitigated by having an alternative source of power or a contingency in place, ensuring that farming operations continue amid Eskom’s decision on a ‘farmers timeout’ from electricity. This level of independence from Eskom is analogous to having a fallback option, much like knowing an alternative route in case of a traffic jam or having a spare tire in case of a flat. It provides consistency in the face of power interruptions.

Instead of patiently waiting for the power to return like a cosmic game of peekaboo, farmers should have in place a plan that prepares them for the next blackout. When the machinery takes an undesirable break, it might seem like farming production has hit rock bottom. But behold, there’s more than one way to keep the humming sounds from the automatic milking machines, or the buzzing sounds from electric motors prolonged, even when Eskom hits the snooze button on the power switch.

So, let’s explore the world of agro-processing resilience, where even power disruptions fail to halt the agricultural innovation pipeline. With generators that roar to life like agro-industrial champions, wind turbines and solar panels that harness the breeze and the sun to keep farming operations rolling. And a host of other power-producing mechanisms at their disposal combined with the readiness to conquer any energy challenge that comes the farmer’s way.

In cases where farmers may not have the necessary resources for the expensive running costs of electric generators and upfront costs of photovoltaic panels and wind power turbines, calm your concerns because there is a world of agricultural possibilities waiting to be cultivated!

Biogas energy production offers a means to ease the large expenses associated with running electric generators, this energy production process offers advantages including contributing to plummeting greenhouse gas emissions and providing a source of energy from organic waste materials – typically from agricultural waste, animal manure and organic food waste.

Here's how it works:

  1. Collecting Organic Waste:Organic waste materials are collected and transported to a biogas plant.
  2. Biogas plant:The organic waste collected is placed in a sealed, oxygen-free container. Microbes will then break down this matter in the absence of oxygen, and biogas will be produced as a byproduct. Biogas mainly consists of methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), and minor traces of additional gases.
  3. Biogas Usage:Biogas can be used for electricity generation by burning it in a biogas generator. It can also be used as fuel for tractors, cultivators and other farm equipment that need fuel to operate.
  4. Biogas Residue:After the process, a nutrient-rich residue, usually referred to as a digestate, is left behind. This digestate can be used as a soil conditioner or an organic fertilizer.

Farmers conducting businesses can employ a tax credit under section 12B of the Income Tax Act for generating renewable energy. Which would reduce the tax payable. And hopefully, in future, those outside of business endeavours can also be granted this opportunity.

As a final point, this investment in self-produced electricity empowers farmers to take control of their energy needs and increase the overall resilience of their agricultural activities. It is a strategic move towards a more sustainable, efficient, and self-reliant farming future, even in the face of the challenges posed by load-shedding and fluctuating energy supplies.


Artvilla Sanele Dakamela, a 24-year-old student pursuing an Honours degree in Accounting at the University of the Free State (UFS), who resides in Kwandengezi, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. He possesses a strong passion for reading and writing.