Sizwe Mchunu’s life has taken many turns – from studying IT to music and working as a DJ – but it is his passion for farming that has truly changed his life.
Mchunu from Volkstrust, a small village located at the top of the Laing’s Nek Pass in KwaZulu-Natal, says that in order to thrive in farming, one must acquire the necessary skills.
He produces vegetables on one hectare on his uncle’s farm in Mpumalanga.
At first, Mchunu’s parents encouraged him to seek a career in computer technology and he studied systems development at Berea Technical College in KZN.
“However, I didn’t like it. I suffered in silence for the first year, hoping to like it but by the second year, I felt [like I was] drowning and dropped out,” he says.
Discovering oneself for personal development
Mchunu then studied post-production and digital composition in music at Boston College in KZN, doing what he enjoyed the most, he adds. For three years thereafter, he worked as a DJ, music producer, Uber driver, and salesman.
From 2016 up until 2021, he worked at the Soul Candy Institute of Music. “Within the entertainment industry, I struggled to maintain financial stability. I got to meet well-known entertainers, but it wasn’t doing my wallet any favours,” he admits.
Mchunu’s life has always been divided between KZN and Mpumalanga, from his schooling to his employment options.
He first started producing vegetables in 2021 in the area of Bethal in Mpumalanga, with his previous farming partner, and it lasted until January 2022.
A chance encounter
While conducting his music training in his old DJ days, Mchunu’s life changed when he met the late Nkosinathi Dlamini, who worked at Gagasi FM. During a conversation, Mchunu expressed his enthusiasm for farming.
He subsequently began farming on Dlamini’s land at kwaGingindlovu, a town in KwaZulu-Natal’s Uthungulu District Municipality. From February to August 2022, he grew veggies rent-free on this land.
“Bab’ Dlamini always advised me to follow my heart; his willingness to assist is evidenced by the fact that he even allowed me to use his five hectares of land.”
Meanwhile, Mchunu’s uncle Musa Nyembe, leases eight hectares of land in Mpumalanga, where he farms with livestock.
Mchunu says he was offered to return home and work on his uncle’s farm in Charleston. He continued with onions, cabbage, chillies, kale, mustard spinach, beetroot, lettuce, and cauliflower on the ten-hectare plot, but he currently only farms on one hectare.
His primary customer base comprises local informal shops, street vendors, Volkstrust Super Spar and Boxer Super Store in Middelburg, and community members from Charleston and Vukuzakhe townships.
Mchunu says he is proud of himself for choosing the peace of farming over the celebrity life of the music industry. He understands that through farming, he is investing for the future.
Plans in the pipeline
With the information he currently possesses, starting with vegetable production, farm business management, and grain production, he is planning to add more.
“I saw a bursary on Facebook. I applied since farming is what I always wanted to see myself doing. I attended Buhle Farmer’s Academy in Delmas, Mpumalanga, where I studied vegetable production, and the entire course was funded by Sasol.”
Mchunu is pleased that they were not only placed at a farming school to learn about only about farming, but Sasol also provided each candidate with R40 000 as a start-up kit.
He believes that capital is essential in farming. They were instructed to go out and come up with a quote.
His starter package included three JoJo tanks, an irrigation system, pipes, joints, fences, poles for shade netting, insecticides, several types of fertilisers, both organic and inorganic fertilisers, a fork, wheelbarrows, a spade, and other tools for vegetable production.
Fire in his belly
Mchunu is not going to stop at farming; he manufactures his own chilli sauce and intends to focus on agro-processing in the future. He envisions his skill growing in popularity by creating his own mealie meal and other farming-related items.
He contends that staying in one’s comfort zone leads to procrastination and that in order to develop, we must all adjust to changing circumstances in our lives.
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