From electrical engineering to farming, nothing could stop this #SoilSista. It was the perseverance and tenacity to achieve in life that motivated Xolile Nkosi to start a mixed farming business. She is one of the inspiring women who was selected for the Corteva Women Agripreneur 2022, a year-long blended development programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA).
Growing up in Mpumalanga, Nkosi had a fairly normal life. She graduated from high school and decided to venture into the electrical engineering field.
Nkosi obtained her electrical installation certificate from a training institution, South African Electrica Industries. During her studies, she decided to start her own company.
“When I launched my company, I started as a subcontractor to another Eskom contractor. I was doing the installation, and from there, I continued as an electrician with two employees,” she explains.
The business was booming and Nkosi received more opportunities within the construction and mining industry. The business allowed her to travel and gave her the opportunity to meet various people. Even educational opportunities came her way, she says.
“From 2015, I became a main contractor and in 2016, I was the main contractor for Unisa, doing electrical work, construction and maintenance.”
Building from nothing
In 2018 Nkosi bought her own plot of five hectares. She started planting various vegetables and sold them at small-scale markets.
She also farms with pigs and goats. “For now I want to dwell into goat farming because they make more money than the pigs. If you look at the pigs, it costs a lot,” she explains.
For three years, she sold vegetables on a small scale, but as soon as she joined the Corteva Women Agripreneur 2022 programme, Nkosi realised how much potential her farming business has.
“I am planting peri-peri [chillies]. I was taught about agro-processing when it comes to vegetables. I am still searching for a bigger market for it though.”
Learning and growing
Nkosi also expresses her recent interest in hydroponic farming, and with her track record, it will be no surprise what the next journey will be.
According to her, knowing people in the industry is important. It is beneficial for the learning as well as the growth of the business, she explains.
“I was advised by someone that with macadamia farming I won’t go wrong. Even though it can take five years to make a profit, you will be able to make money.”
Soon, Nkosi will be setting up appointments to get the show on the road by using three hectares of her land to grow macadamias.
There is more – she has invested in purchasing an extra five-hectare plot that is not too far from the land she is currently farming on.
Challenges will not get her down
With a busy life and multiple businesses, it is sometimes challenging to produce a stable income. She explains that when there is a lack on the farm, she uses money from her other projects to sustain the farm.
“Since I started with the chillies and goats, [money] is coming in a little bit better,” she says.
But her biggest challenge is finding a market for the macadamias as this is a new venture.
Another challenge on the farm is water, and she needs her own license for water.
“I have to secure funds to have my own borehole and the second thing is the license because I was using water from the mine and other sources.”
The Corteva programme came as a gift in Nkosi’s life. She has always had a head and heart for business, but amalgamating business with education has brought about many ideas for the future.
“The Corteva programme assisted us to open our minds. Even though you are in the agricultural field, it is important to check some other business to boost your current one,” she says.
Essentially the quality of land is important and during load shedding the programme exposed the ladies to various sources that can help them maintain their farms to the best of their abilities.
“It’s assisting us a lot, especially on the farm, I have tried some of the things they have taught me in the programme on the farm.”
A love for her community
Nkosi has a love for young people in her community. Her way of giving back to her community is through agricultural training that takes place on the farm.
She further encourages young people to fall in love with farming because it helps with our economy and sustainability in the country.
“Since I have decided that I want to do this [agricultural training] programme for them, each month I train them.”
The agricultural training is not allocated to one specific niche, there are various ways she is giving back whether it is through funding or education. At the end of the day, the sky remains the limit for Nkosi.
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