In a world where closed doors can feel like dead ends, Kwanele Mngadi’s story stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Faced with the formidable challenge of post-graduation unemployment after earning his B.Com management degree, he embarked on an unexpected journey.
What emerged was not just a career pivot, but a rediscovery of ancestral roots and an unbreakable bond with the land. From corporate aspirations to cultivating crops, he transformed setbacks into seeds of success, sowing the seeds of a legacy that runs deeper than the soil itself.
Mngadi is dedicated to the cultivation of dry beans and the breeding of goats on tribal land situated in Melmoth, KwaZulu-Natal. Spanning six hectares, this land falls under the jurisdiction of the Ingonyama Trust, and it is subdivided into two distinct sections: two hectares for his 50 goats and four hectares designated for cultivating sugar beans.
In a manner reminiscent of his grandfather and father, Mngadi possesses an ardent devotion to South Africa and its fertile farmlands.
“My grandfather toiled at a feedlot and an abattoir, while my father thrived as a sugarcane farmer. Farming proved to be our sustaining force, prompting me to embark on a similar journey,” he explains.
However, what sets Mngadi apart from his forebears is his view of farming as more than a mere means of subsistence or sustenance. For him, farming encapsulates a way of life and a conduit for forging generational prosperity.
Agriculture: His chosen pathway
Upon attaining his degree from the University of Zululand, the search for employment proved to be an elusive endeavour. He reflects, “The period between graduation and job hunting marked one of the most disheartening phases of my life.”
One of the most exasperating aspects of job hunting, he recalls, is the pervasive requirement for prior experience. This, he says, presents a catch-22 situation where gaining experience necessitates initial employment by a company.
In light of this, he pivoted towards agriculture, a skill he possessed, firmly believing it would yield a source of income.
The sweet success of sugar beans
His foray into farming commenced with the acquisition of 15 goats, financed from savings amassed during an unsuccessful cleaning business venture. With the passage of time, Mngadi’s agricultural enterprise not only included goat husbandry but also embraced the cultivation of sugar beans.
He attests that sugar beans thrive remarkably and enjoy a consistent demand in the market. He shares, “Local and surrounding citizens have been very supportive, but my capacity cannot satisfy them – even now I get orders from all over KwaZulu-Natal after I posted our produce (sugar beans) on Facebook. We are out of stock already, meaning the market is very huge.”
What makes a good farmer?
Mngadi’s counsel to aspiring young farmers is to take proactive steps instead of awaiting government funding. He suggests that by demonstrating tangible progress, governmental support becomes more attainable.
Furthermore, he advocates seeking guidance from seasoned farmers and accruing a wealth of information prior to embarking on a farming venture.
“Most black farmers do not perceive farming as a business. They associate farming solely with planting, harvesting, and consumption.”
Mngadi underscores the imperative of viewing it as a business endeavour. He urges farmers to channel their efforts into augmenting profits with each harvest through strategic reinvestment in their agricultural enterprises.
He asserts that the formulation of goals and a relentless commitment to their realisation are pivotal in establishing a sustainable and prosperous farming enterprise, which, he believes, distinguishes exceptional farmers.
Focused on the future
Even though life threw him a couple of severe blows, farming has offered him a fresh start. He is now focused on the future and sees agro-processing as an exciting opportunity for growth and sustainability.
Mngadi also has a postgraduate degree in teaching (PGCE) from Unisa. He is currently a temporary teacher at a local school. With his teaching experience, he hopes to teach people how to farm and believes his postgraduate degree will come in handy here.
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