Zithulele Mdadane, a farmer from Mariannhill in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), owes a lot in his life to farming. His father’s cattle business helped to fund his education. Now, Mdadane owns 110 hectares of land, of which 40 are dedicated to crops and cattle farming, all while training the next generation of farmers.
Mdadane attributes his interest in farming to his father, Bhekamanganga, who raised livestock and taught him the ropes of the business.
His early exposure to agriculture instilled a love for the land and a desire to continue the family tradition of farming.
Over the past two decades, Mdadane’s farming operation has evolved from a casual hobby to a serious business venture. In 2016, he decided to take his farming to the next level and in 2020 registered his company, Hlumakahle Agri-Specialist and Training Institute.
Produce in high demand
Mdadane’s farming business has been successful in reaching a wide range of markets, from local village markets and hawkers to larger supermarkets.
His produce is in high demand and has been well-received by both small and large retailers. His list of clientele includes Hello Choice supermarkets in KZN and Gauteng, as well as Spar in Pinetown, among others.
“Our farm further has food processing facilities where we produce organic products, a poultry section, and a piggery which is being renovated,” explains Mdadane.
He adds that he was lucky to earn a Mondi Paper scholarship to study Forestry at Stellenbosch University in 1995.
This qualification has assisted him in having a better grasp of natural processes, people’s behaviour, and product development.
“In our final year, we did project management and before then industrial psychology, which I draw on every day in my work.”
Training and mentoring the next generation
Currently, Hlumakahle Agri-Specialist and Training Institute is hosting eight young women who are part of the Women in Agriculture programme funded and supervised by Momentum, Agri SA Enterprises, and other stakeholders.
“We further host graduates seeking work experience. The latter programme is financed by the department of agriculture in KZN.”
According to Mdadane, agriculture is a multifaceted field with many different career options. People need to explore their interests and find the niche that’s right for them, he adds.
“Whether it’s teaching others about agriculture, finding new ways to improve farming methods, or simply enjoying the satisfaction of growing food, there’s something for everyone in this field.”
Throughout his career, Mdadane has worked in a variety of sectors, including forestry, mining, and municipal government. In his time with Ethekwini Municipality, he learned about the important role mentors play in the agricultural sector.
“As a ‘teacher’ at heart l fell in love with the idea. I then invested in obtaining necessary accreditations to train people in plant production, animal health and natural resource management.”
Keep your dreams alive
Mdadane’s farm employs 63 people, 12 of whom are permanently employed. He takes great pride in knowing that his work is helping to provide jobs for people in the community.
However, his work is not without challenges, such as load shedding, which increases costs and disrupts the supply chain. In addition to these logistical challenges, climate change and adverse weather conditions can also hurt the success of the farm, according to him.
And, he explains, the difficulty of accessing markets can make it difficult to get products to consumers.
“It is very difficult to meet all compliance requirements by retailers as a small-scale farmer and remain profitable.”
Mdadane encourages aspiring farmers to start with what they have and build from there. He believes that it’s possible to succeed in agriculture, even with limited resources, if one is willing to work hard and be creative.
He says, “Use creativity to produce where you are without seeking vast land. Grow crops in old tyres, bags, or any container. Go on YouTube watch ‘how-to’ videos and start.
“Connect with other farmers in your area as well as all suppliers of inputs and equipment.”
Mdadane preaches the gospel of dreaming big. He says that farming can be a powerful tool to lift people out of poverty, and that it has the potential to create jobs and promote self-development.
He urges people to keep their dreams alive, even when they seem faded or far-fetched. He believes that hard work, determination, and a little luck can turn any dream into a reality.
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