How Musa went from beginner to winner in just one year

Musa Gamede (32) believes the success of a farming enterprise is boils down to partnerships. You can never start a business with someone whose agricultural visions do not align with your own. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Food For Mzansi is proud to announce #SoilSistas, a new campaign celebrating female farmers across South Africa. Powered by Corteva Agriscience, we will highlight some of the extraordinary women who are participating in the Corteva Women Agripreneur Programme 2021, a year-long blended development programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA). First-up is Musa Gamede from Benoni outside Johannesburg.

If you want a better life, do your work. Hustle your mind. Do not expect any handouts. In fact, be like the 32-year-old Musa Gamede who built a thriving vegetable enterprise while many others were waiting on government to rescue them.

As a female farmer you are not a damsel in distress, she emphasises.

“There are people who started in 2010 and say they are waiting for the perfect sponsor. It won’t work. When you want to do something get up and do it. You cannot start a business and let it stay stagnant What was the reason for opening that company?”

Musa Gamede built a thriving vegetable business alongside her husband, David Mabasa, in Benoni, Gauteng. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Gamede’s no-nonsense approach has been instrumental in her farming success. With a little backing and loads of support from business partner and husband, David Mabasa, she turned Ngadeni Farms into 3.6 hectares of magic.

The farm is situated in the Benoni-suburb of Marister.

“If a sponsor comes, I will be happy and celebrate, but they will find me going,” she tells Food For Mzansi as she reminisces on her career.

“Or maybe they will find me running. Maybe I won’t be needing that sponsor. I will be the one sponsoring other farmers and helping them grow their business.”

Admittedly, choosing the right partner when building her enterprise was crucial to Gamede’s success.

She warns that if your partner’s agricultural vision does not align with yours, perhaps it’s best to cut your losses – especially if their only mission is to get rich quick.

“He (David) had to be the co-founder (of Ngadeni Farms) just because I needed the finances,” Gamede chuckles. “I couldn’t use his money without him being involved, but I am fully in charge of the project. He will help now and then.”

For her, feeding the nation is one of the noblest trades anyone could choose. Her business, founded in 2014, produces brinjals, chilli, spinach, peppers and mustard spinach. She supplies to both the informal markets in the townships of Alexandra and Tembisa, as well as the Joburg Market.

“I mostly support the township economy. On Mondays I deliver produce to Kasi vendors. I sell to those who cook at taxi ranks. I plant these vegetables that make money so that we can pay the workers. We can pay the rent and everything.”

ALSO READ: Be deliberate about supporting women in agriculture

Started from the bottom now she’s here!

Gamede was born in the Free State town of Harrismith, 330 kilometres outside Bloemfontein. She was unemployed when she first planted the seedlings of her farming dream in 2011, selling tomatoes from her home in Benoni.

She says, “Being young and unemployed is not a nice thing. I decided to stick to what I know and have survived with it. I started small with a garden patch and realised that I can expand this project into a greenhouse.

“When people approached me and praised my tomatoes, I started buying boxes and started selling in my neighbourhood. Everyone wanted my tomatoes; I was surprised that my vines even grew to be taller than me.”

Realising the power of agriculture for her own growth, she expanded her business and started a home-based greenhouse in 2014.

That same year, Gamede went on to win an award as best home producer from the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development. She also formally registered her very own business.

“I started the business as a backyard project. I planted tomatoes in a greenhouse before and decided to grow it after seeing that I can make a profit from the small greenhouse that I have in my backyard.”

Networking with her fellow farmers has been central to her success, Gamede reveals.

“I realised sometimes when I connect with other people who are farmers, we learn from each other.”

Gamede says, “I am a self-taught farmer. I teach myself as I go through my journey, I am passionate nge farming, ngakhulu. No one forced me to this, I love what I do. I love that I can survive by following what I am most passionate about.”

ALSO READ: You can’t run away from your calling, says female farmer

Pay your workers first

Today, Ngadeni Farms employs four permanent workers and four seasonal workers. And as someone who believes in creating an enabling environment for women such as herself, she proudly creates opportunities for others.

“I mostly prefer them to be women. The main reason of the project is to create employment for myself and other women,” Gamede says. “Sometimes you cannot have only women in the entire organisation. There must be balance.

“When the end of the month comes, before I can do anything for myself or my children, I make sure I pay those families. There are families who depend on this project to work. Those people working the land have families and mouths to feed.”

Farming is an influential industry, she believes. “You are not just building a future for yourself; you are also building communities.”

Musa Gamede’s 5 tips for new farmers

1. Feed your mind: There are always opportunities to learn in agriculture. Embrace them.
2. Timing is crucial: You need to know when and what to plant for each season. It is important to fully understand this so that you are not lost in the seasons.
3. Be a leader and not a boss: Learn to work with people, and not against them. When you treat people with respect and kindness, they will work with you to grow your business.
4. Don’t wait to be rescued: Waiting for government to rescue you will only see you fail before you even start. Rescue yourself.
5. Consistency is key: Sometimes introspection is necessary when you find yourself chopping and changing workers every season. Sometimes you are the problem. Maybe you cannot work with people. Don’t create havoc in your business. Treat people well and your business will flourish.
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