Meet Langa, Bizana’s rising farm star

As a child, Langalukuthula ‘Langa’ Msongelwa did not want to follow in his father’s farming footsteps because he only saw the hard labour. Little did he know that he would be the game-changer for his family

In the streets of Bizana in the Eastern Cape, Langalukuthula “Langa” Msongelwa has become a source of inspirational to future farmers. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

In the streets of Bizana in the Eastern Cape, Langalukuthula “Langa” Msongelwa has become a source of inspirational to future farmers. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Getting recognition from a global culinary expert such as Siba Mtongane is something that Langalukuthula Msongelwa never dreamed of as an up-and-coming farmer from the Eastern Cape.

Simply known as “Langa” in the streets of Bizana, the birth place of anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Msongelwa initially did not want to farm. He would watch his father planting crops on their land and honestly didn’t see himself working that hard. All he saw was manual labour.

“My father loved farming,” the 26-year-old tells Food For Mzansi. “He used to get up early in the morning and work until late. Although I knew how important farming was, at the time it seemed like a very difficult task.”

From disappointment to opportunity

However, a hiccup with his NSFAS student loan application in 2020 led to a U-turn in his life. Msongelwa was forced to take a gap year from his studies because he did not have the money to register for another academic year.

Msongelwa is a third-year information technology in business analysis student at the Walter Sisulu University in East London. He says, “After sitting for some time doing nothing – and there was Covid-19 which made things even worse – my father encouraged me to farm. From there, I realised how fun and exciting it is.”

The big difference between him and his father, is that Msongelwa farms for profit.

His dad is a subsistence farmer who is doing it for the love of the land. “I decided, after joining my father, I will make a business out of farming,” he explains.

The farming enterprise got a little boost from the money Msongelwa had saved up. With this he could start with 7 000 spinach and 500 cabbage seedlings. He hoped to double his initial investment by selling his vegetables on the streets of Bizana where he was born and raised.

As a child, Langalukuthula “Langa” Msongelwa never wanted to follow in his father’s farming footsteps because he only saw the hard labour. Little did he know that he would one day turn it into a business. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Learning from the school of life

But, farming isn’t for the faint-hearted. Yes, he learned a few things from his father, but in the end it was an uphill battle because he had no formal training in the science of agriculture.

“At first I didn’t know things such as how to apply the fertilizer correctly. I had no idea how climate change affects crops [nor] irrigation techniques and things. It is difficult to start farming with no qualifications in agriculture because you make a lot of mistakes that cost you,” he says.

“At the same time, it [these mistakes] are schooling you. Also the markets, I had no market to sell my produce. So, it was difficult, but I managed to secure the market in 2020.”

These challenges and learning curves made Msongelwa much stronger. He spent much more time studying his crops and, in the end, it paid off because he now supplies supermarkets such as Boxer with cabbages and spinach.

His father remains one of his biggest supporters. It is from him that he learnt the lesson that farming was “a busi­ness that will never col­lapse because food will for­ever be needed by peo­ple.”

A recent milestone in his farming career was being recognised by Mtongana, who presents the popular TV show Cooking with Siba. He was taken aback when the celebrity chef asked her Instagram followers to follow his inspirational agricultural journey.

His greatest wish, however, is to see his business grow and to plant more hectares to employ more people. “I would like to see myself as a com­mer­cial farmer who will one-day own of [piece of] land and be­ able to sup­ply big stores such as Woolworths, Shoprite and oth­ers.” There can be no doubt that Msongelwa is prepared to work hard to achieve his goals. After all, he says, “My greatest lesson in life was to learn from my failures,. Don’t be afraid to fail.”

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