“Agriculture is a great industry, I love this industry, but it should never be considered a walk in the park,” says 23-year-old farmer Masimbonge Vuma.
The young agripreneur from Queenstown in the Eastern Cape runs a mixed farming enterprise called Indyebo Agric Co-operative. He farms on 15 hectares of rented land where he cultivates spinach and breeds poultry and pigs.
“You can’t skip steps in this industry,” Vuma says. “However, I believe anyone can do it even if you did not go to school for it. Agriculture is for everyone.”
During his matric year in 2015, Vuma accepted an offer for a bursary from the Nelson Mandela University to study towards a diploma in engineering. He accepted, but towards the end 2018, close to completing his studies, he decided that the path of an engineer was not for him.
He chose a career path in agriculture and returned home to commence his poultry enterprise with a friend who he has known since grade six.
While the fears of starting a business can easily consume an entrepreneur, Vuma was not even close to being scared off. He’d had plenty of practice during his varsity days, when he sold books, loaned money to his peers and much more.
“I’ve never liked the idea of working for someone. And I’ve always wanted to be in control of my destiny and not have any regrets,” he states.
What’s a journey without a couple of mistakes?
When Vuma and his friend started the poultry business, they made a lot of mistakes, he says.
His first mistake, he admits, was trusting the wrong people to help kick-start their agri journey. Vuma and his partner ordered 100 broilers from a supplier who scammed them.
“We thought we ordered broilers, but when the delivery was made, we got something else.”
They received free-range, Plymouth Rock chickens. An old and trusted breed created in America. Also, with no real market in place, the pair struggled to sell their poultry.
‘Mistakes are lessons, so one should not be afraid to make them.’
“We didn’t make any money,” he says. “In fact, we lost money that was not even ours because we borrowed from friends and relatives. But we eventually paid everyone back and everyone was understanding.”
His partner, on the other hand, was not as forgiving and wanted a return on his investment.
“He was like, no I’m out bro, this is not what I imagined it to be. Shame, he thought it would be a walk in a park, but starting a business is not easy,” Vuma laughs.
“I think we were fortunate to make those mistakes early in our journey. We learned a lot from the mistakes. Mistakes are lessons, so one should not be afraid to make them.”
‘The answers are in the books’
In 2019, after this mishap, Vuma was ready to give it another go, this time with the help of his brother, Nkosinathi. By then, Vuma and his former partner had resolved their differences.
With poultry staying his main focus, he also tried something different – crop production.
They approached a woman who had vacant land to utilise it for spinach. They entered into an agreement with her after she was convinced that they were serious about the farming venture.
Vuma explains that, “Only towards the end of 2019 did we make things official, because she was worried that I would quit halfway. There’s not a lot of farmers in my area, especially at my age.”
The Vuma brothers have a ten-year lease agreement in place and supply spinach to Spar, Boxer and Usave. They also breed pigs on the farm, which are sold on the informal markets along with the chickens.
“I like to experiment and try new things. I think it’s because I am always reading up on new information,” he says.
If there is one thing that Vuma enjoys doing besides cultivating his land, it is reading.
“I do like it a lot. I did not study farming when I started, so I needed to get as much information as I can get about the sector, marketing, accounting, etc.
“So where do you get the answers? The answers are in the books, so you must read them. They say readers are leaders and it helps me to stay on top of my game.”
Right now, Vuma is staying on top of his game by obtaining a qualification in agriculture through the Nelson Mandela University. He is also exploring the possibilities of launching a new farm in Port Elizabeth. He hopes to start farming there in 2021.
Vuma adds that he is looking forward to his journey ahead in agriculture. Knowing that he contributes to the economy of Mzansi and is putting food on the tables of South Africa inspires him, he says.