Siyabonga Mngoma (41) is a crusader in the battle for the health of South Africans. She is an aspiring nutritionist and farming ace who left the corporate world to pursue her mission: to provide holistic, natural solutions to the ailments of the body, mind and spirit that our nation suffers from.
Her story starts with the soil. As a child, she had an early exposure to the world of growing her own food and recalls being a reluctant cultivator.
She recalls that her mother had a small veggie patch at the back of their house in Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal, where she grew mealies. “She would call me to come help her, and I didn’t want to, but my mother would insist and I would find myself in the field with a hoe. In those days you didn’t get away with being lazy!”
“The aim is to make organically grown fresh produce widely available.”
After school, Siyabonga set aside the garden tools and chose to dive into the world of marketing. She completed a diploma in Integrated Marketing Communications, Brand Management from the AAA School of Advertising in 2002 and then later, in 2012, she earned her BA Honours in Brand Leadership from the Vega Brand Communication school. Despite her achievements in the field, a nobler purpose called her back to the soil.
“I was getting restless in my job and started establishing my own business. I started researching challenges facing South Africa, and to cut a long story short I ended up being interested in agriculture and food security.”
Food security and nutrition are hot-button issues in our country, with the majority of poor households not having access to a wide enough variety of nutritious foods. This, while a large percentage of people who have the means to achieve a balanced diet, fall prey to the health risks of regularly consuming unhealthy foods.
Sobering statistics paint a picture of a country in the midst of a nutrition crisis that we cannot afford to ignore. With this in mind, Siyabonga set out to find workable solutions to this spectrum of challenges. She started a company, tried her hand at ostrich farming and was a participant in the ABInbev urban rooftop farming initiative in Johannesburg.
Summoning her combined experience, she founded Abundance Wholesome Foods, with the intent of providing convenient, organic produce directly to the public and educating people on how to pursue and achieve holistic health.
“The aim is to make organically grown fresh produce widely available, and create access to communities who may not necessarily be exposed to organic foods either [due to] distance to organic farms, not being able to grow their own or because of affordability.”
Her company website boasts a variety of organic vegetables and herbs available for door-to-door delivery in the Gauteng area.
“My vision for the future is to see South Africans becoming more involved and concerned about what goes into our food.”
The blog on the Abundance Wholesome Foods website offers a wealth of knowledge on healthy eating practices, sustainable and responsible food sourcing. It also looks at mental health with a focus on mindfulness and achieving balance of the body and mind in a world that often prioritizes convenience and industry over health. It offers helpful information for managing diseases and disorders such as diabetes and cancer and minimizing the harmful effect of their food choices in the environment.
“I’m not reaching as many people as I want to” she admits. Her goal of influencing as many people as possible with her message and produce is challenging, but she is confident that she has the right foundations and backing to expand her reach.
Her customers and business coach have emboldened her spirit. “They are the reason I manage to take each step every day and for that I really feel successful. This has affected my life in a very positive way. I’ve gained more confidence, I have become mindful and every day I try to be conscious about my choices and what’s around me.”
Her connection to cultivation goes beyond her chosen profession. Her home and travels are awash in a lush spectrum of various types of plants, evident from her Instagram account, which is dedicated exclusively to showcasing the plants she grows and encounters.
“I love being surrounded by them! ” she exclaims.
Siyabonga is a futurist at heart, envisioning a country where all of us have access to at least the very basics to ensure that we grow into a healthy, conscientious society.
“My vision for the future is to see South Africans becoming more involved and concerned about what goes into our food, making informed decisions about the food we consume and eating for health and enjoyment. I would like for society to be more mindful about the abundance of our planet.”
Her story is an arc of inspiration, innovation and energy that will hopefully end in a perfect circle of awareness, health and balance for many South Africans.