Cross-border trader Tuleka Ngcingwana decided that 2022 was the year that she would venture into farming and nothing could stop her to achieve this goal. Today 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).
Ngcingwana grew up in an entrepreneurial family that generally loved agriculture and business. Her grandparents were farmers for all their lives, and her parents were business owners. When they decided to retire, they wanted to farm as well.
She explains that even though the family was directly involved in farming, she went into the business part of it. She became a cross-border trader that supplied fruit to various neighbouring countries. By doing this, she created her path and is enjoying the journey so far.
“I have been supplying fresh produce to neighbouring countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi,” she says.
While her cross-border trading business took off, she desired to follow in her family’s footsteps and farm. For Ngcingwana, the focus was to go beyond traditional farming and the best way for her to do that was by thinking about what she wanted. And so the building process began.
Seeing an opportunity to expand
She loved learning from her family, and saw how they did things differently when it came to business. And being exposed to the agricultural world made her the woman she is today.
“We have always been exposed to that and the food business. Our business as a family span from supermarkets, hospitality, hotels, and lodges,” she explains.
She aspires to see her family enterprise grow bigger and more successful while carrying on with what her family started.
“I want to build on the great job that my parents have already started like improving areas of governance, compliance, and going more into processing instead of remaining primary producers,” she says.
Plans in the pipeline
She plans to farm on two properties. The one farm already has everything in place and is about 10 hectares. She plans to farm with pomegranates, olives, and broilers on one farm. Later on, she will add vegetables and herbs to her operation.
“I am planning on starting a farm that focuses more on regenerative agriculture that is more sustainable and does not rely on thousands of hectares to be lucrative.”
At the end of the day, the aim is to go into agro-processing and create products from the produce.
“Ideally, I don’t want anything to leave the farm in its original state. It must leave as a finished project,” Ngcingwana adds.
Challenges when it comes to land
Even though the family has a chain of businesses, the biggest challenge is access to land. Some of the lands are owned by the family and the rest of the land they continue to lease.
“The main challenge is access to land and finance. The problem that arises when it comes to leasing land is that there is a lot of uncertainty and it also limits you from making long-term plans.”
She further explains that they lost 700 hectares due to leasing and this can have an effect on production output.
Impact of Corteva programme
Initially, she got into the Corteva programme with a trading perspective, but in 2020 when Covid-19 struck, she realised that she needed to branch out because when the borders closed, it was difficult to continue business and make money.
“Instead of focusing on foreign markets, I want to do something myself in terms of food produced locally in South Africa, This is how I decided that I want to branch out from the family business,” she says.
The programme helped her gain more perspective when it comes to farming. Meeting the different women gave her the motivation she needed to plan her future farming endeavours.
“The aim was to get the right fundamentals in place at foundation level and being exposed to all the ladies on the programme.”
Ngcingwana extends her gratitude to the other Corteva ladies for sharing their stories and helping her avoid making mistakes.
“Being with like-minded women who are on the same path and about to take the agricultural industry by storm, makes me excited,” she says.
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