When Khanyile Langa from Qonce in the Eastern Cape saw the opportunity to unleash his entrepreneurial capabilities at the age of 22, he grabbed it with both hands and never looked back.
His go-getter attitude saw him pioneer an events company and co-found a website built to assists people with finding professional tradesmen for household or business maintenance needs.
Ask Langa, now 26, and he will tell you that he has always been receptive to opportunities, even since he was a child.
But in 2020, at the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic, Langa’s eyes opened to an untapped opportunity that had been right under his nose all his life.
His 92-year-old grandmother, Nothobile Joji, had started a garden in their backyard many moons ago. The garden was the source of many a meal in the Langa household, but it died when his granny fell ill and no one else could take over.
Until years later.
Suddenly, he had more time on his hands to do add a productive activity to his daily routine and he chose wisely – agriculture.
So, in their backyard the size of a netball court, Langa planted lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and maize.
“It was never meant to be sold, I took pride in knowing that we could go out into our backyard and harvest vegetables for ourselves. I have a big family, so they would come here and I would give them a box of veggies.”
Opportunities come with action
Today, that backyard garden has grown into a sustainable agribusiness operating on 1,5 hectares and employing six people from his community. The business, called Sumting Organic, supplies a local Spar, informal markets and a large market in East London.
They also now grow spinach, cabbage, beetroot, carrots, onions, green peppers, sweetcorn, tomatoes and turnips.
“People always ask me how I do it. Opportunities will find you with your actions not your potential. You have to stop existing in your potential and start existing in your action,” Langa states.
On one of his action-taking days, Langa passed a Spar just 6km from his home. He decided to go in and ask the outlet manager a basic question, which turned out to be life changing.
“I asked him what he was lacking, and he told me spinach and cabbages. I thought let me supply them. I started planting in January 2021 and by March I was supplying them.”
But this young farmer’s journey was not easy. Langa admits his initial perception was that agriculture was an easy space. Not anymore, he says.
“As much as there’s a lot that you as a farmer must do, everything is always up to God.”
“I thought you could simply plant and make money. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
“From labour to management and administrative work; wearing so many hats. Having to manage the whole thing and overworking yourself knowing that it could all flop. It’s a very stressful industry, but really worth it,” he explains.
His plan now is to identify more gardens in his community that are not being put to good use.
He hopes to acquire more spaces that can produce a variety of crops as the market demands, with each plot producing a different crop. This, he says, takes away the pressures of having to acquire a large portion of land.
Young man with mega plans
Langa’s food gardens are sacred to him. He explains that they give him peace of mind and does his soul well.
“I believe that farming is a spiritual activity. As much as there’s a lot that you as a farmer must do, everything is always up to God.”
Langa admits though that his faith has been tested many times while passionately cultivating the land.
“When I planted on a larger scale, I did it with spinach and cabbage. The problem is I struggled with transport and market access. As much as I knew where the markets were the challenge was getting my produce there.”
Langa does not have his own vehicle, but tries his best to ensure his customers get their orders on time.
While his agriculture journey is far from done, Langa is most proud that he employs young people in his community. He describes this as being a great feeling.
Since a young age, the young agriculturalist has always wanted to serve others and be impactful.
“Me being able to employ six people is something that I take so much pride in. There’s still a long way to go. It may not be a large number, but I do believe that it is making a difference.”
Langa says he hopes to employ more people in the near future.
“I see myself going on a mega-scale when it comes to agriculture. I would love to venture into a multi-faceted agri enterprise with pigs, poultry and even the goat trade.”
He also plans to venture into large-scale potato farming and has already started an application process with Potatoes SA.