Minenhle Mbuyazi (25) has found her calling in life, and even though farming can be a difficult undertaking, producing food and raising animals to feed communities is the motivating factor that drives her every day.
Mbuyazi is the founder and owner of Mbonambi Agric Enterprise, a small farm that produces and supplies vegetables to supermarkets, small businesses and school feeding schemes.
“Farming is a really beautiful space. One way or another, we all feel a certain connection with the nature, and a farmer lives it,” she said.
Mbuyazi’s parents passed their love for small-scale farming on to her, which is one of the main reasons that she took Agriculture as a subject in Grade 11. She then obtained a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Agricultural Management, majoring in agricultural economics, agric-plant sciences and farm management.
“What really attracted me to this field was the freedom that comes with it. Knowing that I would be able to create opportunities for myself when I graduate made me choose agriculture. The unemployment rate in our county is very high, so knowing that I will be part of the solution and not the problem was motivation for me to pursue a career in agriculture.”
Mbuyazi is affectionally known as “Spinach Mbonambi” on Facebook owing to the fact that she extensively used social media to sell her produce when she started farming.
“Spinach was the first vegetable that I sold from my small-scale farm. I would advertise my spinach on social media and joked that some people probably refer to me as the ‘spinach lady’.
“I then changed my Facebook name to ‘Spinach’, only to find that I would have to wait 60 days before I can change it back. As it turned out, my new name was very well received, so I decided not to change back to Minenhle.”
She initially sold spinach to her community and also did deliveries for those who reached out to her through social media. She subsequently received assistance from Tholinhlanhla Dindi, who worked for Mondi Zimele Jobs Fund, a small business development initiative.
“He established a supply relationship with Food Lovers’ Market (in Richards Bay) through which the bulk on my spinach is sold. My very first spinach harvest was a huge success. This motivated me to grow further,” says Mbuyazi.
She conceded that even though she thought farming would be easier because she has a degree in agriculture, she learns something new every day.
Passion goes a long way
“Different challenges require different solutions, but this should not discourage anyone who want to venture into this field. Passion will take you a long way in farming. So, if you are not passionate about agriculture, you will be easily discouraged when thing don’t go your way,” she explained.
“Most of our work is done outside, so we are always at the mercy of the elements. It takes a lot to start over after heavy rains, frost, field fires or excessive heat have ruined your valuable produce and only passion and hard work can carry you through.”
As a developing farmer, most of the work that goes into Mbuyazi’s crop production is labour-intensive due to a lack of infrastructure and agricultural machinery.
“It takes longer to complete tasks, which in turn delays production. Having a stable market is also a significant challenge, as I cannot always meet market demands.”
Like any person in business, Mbuyazi is faced with everyday challenges, but believes that as a young person it is important to work hard and not wait on funding.
Willing to work hard
“I do believe that there are a lot of opportunities in agriculture, but you must be willing to put in the work and not just wait for funding. It is not as easy as it looks, but it is definitely doable. There is not a day that goes by without people needing agricultural commodities, so the opportunities are endless and there will never come a day when agriculture becomes irrelevant.”
Mbuyazi noted that healthy eating is also important for a farmer, as the nature of the work is largely physical. While she is a farm manager, she does not spend her day sitting in the office with a laptop and books.
“Healthy eating means getting all the nutrients that the body needs in the right amounts, so that I can perform my daily duties and keep healthy. It is a great coincidence that I grow vegetables which are a staple and highly recommended for our health.”
In five years’ time, Mbuyazi wants to be a well-established commercial farmer and would like to have developed at least a handful of other small-scale farmers through her work.
“I would love to develop a fully-functional fresh produce market for farmers in the Zululand Region, as there is a great need for one. I also want to provide internship programmes for agricultural graduates seeking employment. In each area where I develop a farm, I want to employ community members and train one young person as a farm manager.” – Health-e News