In agriculture, it often takes a village to make a real impact and 24-year-old Mhlengi Ngcobo understands this very well. For the greater good of his community, this self-taught farmer is on a mission, exposing youth and women to agriculture as a means to ward off unemployment and poverty.
Barely four years into his farming journey of growing cash crops and maize, Ngcobo is already coming up with different ways he can invest back into his community and surroundings.
One way he is doing this is by opening his wallet and farm, and availing himself to women and youth from underprivileged villages and informal settlements to pass on all he knows about agriculture.
“I am a strong believer that we can gain our economic freedom and sustain our livelihoods through farming.”
Exposing the younger generation
Recently, Ngcobo hosted an event on his farm in Ndwedwe, a town in Ilembe District Municipality, to which aspiring farmers flocked in numbers.
The event provided training for participants on farming using hydroponics systems as well as agro-processing. Those in attendance were also schooled on the entrepreneurial side of agriculture, Ngcobo said.
“The main reason why I hosted this [specific] event was that I wanted to give exposure to students studying agriculture.
“It was also to develop and empower local youth, especially those unemployed. I wanted to help change the narrative of how black communities view agriculture. For the longest time, agriculture has been viewed as suitable for only a certain race or gender,” he said.
A heart for the people
It is not the first time that this young farmer has hosted an event of this kind. Before opening his farm gates to enthusiastic learners, Ngcobo would invite youth and host them in one of the local town halls.
“This time around, I wanted people to get a feel of what a farmer goes through on a daily basis in terms of running the farm and the tasks involved.”
Ngcobo has been training youth and women from underprivileged villages and informal settlements for the past two years now. He’s been doing it free of charge. The training is entirely funded by his company, Iboyana Agri Farming.
With a heart for his community, it’s no wonder he received an award during the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Business Awards last year. Ngcobo was recognised as social entrepreneur of the year.
“I am a strong believer that we can gain our economic freedom and sustain our livelihoods through farming, as well as curb the high unemployment rate. The sector is broad, most people think [only as far as] seeds and soil. Through these training sessions, we also get to expose people to several possibilities in farming.”
And while the farmer may still be a long way from commercial success, he’s definitely one to watch.
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