As lockdowns went into effect in 2020 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a global gardening boom erupted with weary citizens turning to their gardens for stability. Fundile Sobuza from Cape Town transformed his Parklands lawn into a food garden he calls the Vukulime Project.
Growing food in his garden became his safe space. “The suburb’s businesses were closed, the streets were quiet, and my mind needed a rest from anxieties. I needed a hobby to focus on,” he says.
Sobuza started growing corn, pumpkins, beans, and carrots. “It was quite incredible how the addition of flowers and grass transformed my lawn into something beautiful of this nature.”
A sense of sharing
Sobuza grew up in Thorha village, which is located in eNgcobo about 83km from uMthatha. His village was an agricultural community, and he learned the trade from his parents and grandparents.
He says that people back then treated their neighbours like family and helped one another out. They shared farming tools and supplies like wheelbarrows, spades, watering canes, shovels, fertiliser, saws and hoes.
“My peers can attest that we were everyone’s children. As a result, if your neighbour needs help harvesting, the whole community will go over to their garden or fields and do whatever needs to be done, without expecting anything in return.”
After he got his matric from Falo Senior Secondary School in Cofimvaba, he went to the University of the Western Cape to get his BA in political science. “By the way, I wanted to be a doctor, but it wasn’t in the cards for me academically.”
Learning to farm as a business venture
Sobuza began farming with sheep as a primary business in his village of Thorha in the Eastern Cape in 2009.
He says that the demand for livestock in the villages is always there and is especially high around holidays. “People buy livestock for initiations, rituals, and other events that require meat.
“My mother also makes things easier for me. She loves farming so much. To that effect, I’ve arranged for someone to take care of my livestock back at home during my absence.”
He adds that farming in communities does not take much effort, especially when communal land is used, like in his village.
Sobuza also owns and operates Moja Restaurant and Catering. The kasi restaurant serves samp and beans, pumpkins, fries, spinach, pap, rice, beef, chicken, pork, stews, vetkoeks, ice cream, bunny chows and any other kasi foods by request.
“During the morning and afternoon, most of my clients are students and employees who are in a rush and need something quick to eat. However, we also provide takeout and dining options.”
His sister, Zikhona Sobuza, and Tina Boqwana are the ones who cook and run the business, but he helps out sometimes.
Although his restaurant was launched in 2020, they had to close down due to Covid-19 and financial difficulties. However, in August this year, he was able to bring it back to life.
He is also in the property business, he explains, and the reason he opened kasi restaurants in the area is so that he could provide his renters with easy access to delicious kasi cuisine.
Learning is adapting
Sobuza says that people can’t learn to step outside their comfort zones or seize possibilities in life unless they can get started, even when it doesn’t seem like it can work.
“One of my successful qualities is that I am not scared to make mistakes. I enjoy being an entrepreneur because each setback forces me to learn and grow.”
According to Sobuza, the restaurant buys the vast majority of his garden’s produce. He believes that it’s helpful to have a plan for getting your wares into customers’ hands and that marketing is a must for every business; something he learned in marketing school.
“I’ve always been the type of person that works hard and is always trying to better themselves. I have a bachelor’s degree in industrial relations and a post-graduate in business management. I have used all I’ve learned to build success for my businesses.”
Sobuza says he would never look back, adding that families should be engaged in business in preparation for the day when the founders are no longer there to take care of the business.
“Any skill is useful to have, but you never know when you’ll need it. Seize the day, not just for yourself but for the person next to you as well. There are skills we may never employ, but others in our communities may. Therefore, sharing is caring.”
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