Always be fully aware of the “business” in “agri-business”, says Sibongile Cele, a former accountant turned rooftop urban farmer in this week’s Farmer’s Inside Track video episode. 52-year-old Cele has managed to create an agriculture business on a rooftop in Hillbrow, Gauteng.
On the roof of the Outreach Foundation building, Cele’s Mcebo Fresh Veggie Rooftop Farm produces leafy greens and herbs. The inner-city suburb might not be an ideal location for some, but the urban farmer says her purpose is bigger than the opinions of naysayers.
“You’re not doing it for yourself. It is not about you. We are looking for solutions that we can bring into the inner city where we can shorten the food mile. People have access to food, and we don’t have a situation where people say in Africa there is a shortage of food, so we want to outgrow the system and be the solution.”
Cele also advises young up-and-coming farmers to keep the faith and take rejection from investors as a sign to do better. “It does not mean that they will not help you. It’s just to keep pitching until you find an investor that is actually interested to hear what you are all about.”
As a former accountant with Deloitte, Cele reminds us to always be fully aware of the “business” in “Agri-Business”. “Most people think agriculture is not business and it is. Yes, we do it as social entrepreneurs, but it still has to generate profits,” she affirms.
Cele distributes seeds through an initiative she calls Mcebo Seed Bank for prospective gardeners looking to “eat from the Earth.” She encourages her fellow entrepreneurs to actively participate in the change that they want to see in the world.
“It’s not difficult being an entrepreneur,” she says. “It’s just that with us we have to be resistant and it takes resilience, because you don’t give up on the vision that you have. Not having an investor does not mean your vision stops.”
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