In the village of Unity Park in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape, Abongile Sidzumo and her mother, Ntombizine, sought to escape hunger’s grip. They started with a few crops on a simple plot of land. With hard work, soon their business began to expand. Today, they supply a supermarket in Lusikisiki with fresh veggies.
Sidzumo worked as a general worker at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Lusikisiki until her contract ended in 2022. Afterwards, she and her mother began farming at home to sustain themselves. It wasn’t easy, but it allowed them to put food on the table.
Dedication cultivates success
They dedicated themselves to their new venture, working hard to make ends meet.
“Losing my job was a difficult time, but I knew that it was important to focus on something else. I had to regain my sense of purpose and find new opportunities.”
With a family history of farming, Sidzumo found that planting vegetables came naturally to her. Her mother’s guidance and support helped her grow both as a farmer and a person. Starting with spinach and cabbage, they soon expanded to include potatoes in their crop selection.
While their initial goal was to provide for themselves, the positive feedback from their neighbours encouraged them to keep going. With the help of social media and web research, they were able to learn about vegetable diseases and other challenges.
She says, “Connecting with others, learning new skills, and discovering new interests is vital for me. I worked hard to find something that excites me and makes me feel fulfilled.”
Growing higher and higher!
Sidzumo’s clientele has grown to include people from surrounding villages like kuHombe, Ngobozana, Lambasi, Mgezwa, and even as far as Mthatha. This is a testament to the quality of their produce and the strength of their business.
“Word of mouth and social media have been vital in expanding my clientele, even reaching customers in Mthatha.”
In 2023, Sidzumo approached the Boxer Super Store in Lusikisiki and was accepted as a supplier. The store manager told her to bring her produce during Sassa payment days, as the demand would be high. To her surprise, the demand was so high that the store asked her to bring her produce even on non-Sassa days.
“The future looks bright for my business, as I have started supplying the Boxer Superstore in Lusikisiki. This is a sign of progress and shows that my business is moving forward and growing.”
No more water worries
Despite the water scarcity in Unity Park and its surrounding communities, Sidzumo overcame this challenge thanks to a water tank provided by the Mineworkers Development Agency.
This support has been crucial in overcoming the water scarcity challenges for her business, she says.
“The water tank has been an essential part of my business, as it has allowed me to continue growing vegetables in an area where water is scarce. Without it, my business would have struggled to survive.”
She adds, “I’m thankful for the help I’ve received, and I’m dedicated to making the most of this opportunity.”
In the future, Sidzumo hopes to be able to afford a borehole, which would allow her to expand her farming operation to include vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, beetroots, and peppers. This would help her meet the growing demand for fresh, locally grown produce in her community, she adds.
Spread the knowledge
According to Sidzumo, most of her customers are people over the age of 60. They have a great appreciation for fresh, quality vegetables, and their satisfaction is important to her.
Sidzumo hopes to grow her business to the point where she can supply larger supermarkets in the area, increasing her impact and ability to provide healthy food to more people.
She believes that when people know how to grow their food, they can become more self-sufficient and less reliant on low-paying jobs.
“The fact that agricultural studies aren’t compulsory like mathematics in schools is a missed opportunity. It’s something that everyone needs and could benefit from.
“I wish more students had the chance to learn about food production and other agricultural topics from a young age.”
She also sees her business to bring affordable, fresh produce to rural communities, rather than relying on vegetables that have been transported long distances and may not be as fresh.
Sidzumo’s vision for the future includes branching out into the beauty industry, using vegetables from her farm to create products like “beetroot-flavoured shampoo”. She sees this as adding value to her business and bringing something; exciting and innovative to the market.
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