This week on Food For Mzansi’s #SoilSistas campaign, we meet Nomathamsanqa Dyonase, founder of Nomady Training and Development. Powered by Corteva Agriscience, we’re highlighting some of the extraordinary female farmers participating in Corteva Women Agripreneur Programme 2021, a year-long blended development programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA).
There is a lot to love about Mzansi, but there are also many problems to solve here, including unemployment and food insecurity. These are the problems the 39-year-old Nomathamsanqa Dyonase is looking to solve with her farming enterprise.
“I would like to see my company being able to employ people from the community so that the unemployment rate can decrease,” Dyonase says when asked about her goals. “We can have a stronger economy through its own people in South Africa.”
Though she didn’t take to farming from the start, Dyonase’s farming background started when she was very young.
Born and raised in Chiawelo, Soweto, Dyonase often travelled to rural areas when she was younger.
During school holidays, her family visited Mogwaneng village near Kwamhlanga in Mpumalanga. She was inspired when she saw the good work that communities were involved in.
“Seeing communities planting and feeding families, being able to cook what you have harvested in your own yard…” she reminisces. “These sentiments are the core of my soul and that’s why I went into farming.”
During these trips she helped out on the farms and homesteads they visited.
“We were taught how to work with our hands especially at the farm. That place helped me shape up as a young girl and a young woman.”
Trainer before farmer
Growing up, Dyonase did not make use of these lessons she learned except as a trainer to help develop other farming businesses.
After finishing a certificate in plant production, she started training others in plant production.
She established her farm training and development company, Nomady Training and Development, in 2014. It focuses on training in mixed farming, facilitation, assessment, moderation and hospitality.
“We are a small-scale business,” Dyonase says. “Our clients are the surrounding community and street vendors in Mahikeng and Soweto.”
Seeing how she was helping other people achieve their dreams through farming and development, Dyonase started to pursue her own passion for producing food.
She acquired land from the chief in Mahikeng, Signal Park, where she started planting vegetables at home.
“I started planting in my own yard. Then I expanded my vegetable garden into half a hectare and from there onwards I never stopped to this date.”
Now Dyonase runs a lucrative farming enterprise in Mahikeng, North West with three full-time employees and four to eight seasonal workers, when needed.
Her farm supports the Mahikeng community by supplying seeds, sharing soil preparation methods and things like fertiliser. On a fortnightly basis they supply street vendors in Soweto and the community in Soweto and Mahikeng.
“My future plans are to farm commercially and also I have started learning about cattle because I want to explore and specialise in beef.”
Her farm specialises in green peppers, chillies (fresh and also canned), onion, spinach and at times beetroot. “We hope to expand by another hectare soon so that we can increase supply.”
Dyonase is currently busy with a course in farming management from Oxbridge College.
Leading as a woman in agriculture
Dyonase feels strongly that because agriculture is male-dominated, it is missing the special ingredients of a woman’s touch to make it whole.
“A man leads the house, but a woman drives it through her patience, drive, willingness and perseverance,” she says.
So, from one female farmer to all woman who are going into the field of agriculture, here are some tips from Dyonase’s hard-won experience:
Persevere: Don’t give up. It gets tough before it is better.
Start small: Grow as you go and be teachable so that the road becomes easier. It is a tough, yet achievable, goal if only you set your mind on it.
Work hard: Give it your best, focus and persevere in everything you do because you are a hand that rocks the cradle from which the birth of hundreds of nations exists.
And remember, “Wathinta abafazi, wathinta imbokodo.”
You strike a woman, you strike a rock.