It is Nosipho Vuthela’s combination of skills and dedication that drives the success of her farming ventures. As the CEO of Bright Rainbow Enterprise and founder of Gedlumhlanga Youth Co-operative, she operates both a 252-hectare crop farm and another plot housing beef cattle, sheep, and broilers.
Her mixed-farming approach, Vuthela says, has contributed significantly to her success and she is looking to diversify even further.
“I am a farmer from Mt. Fletcher Ward 7 under Elundini Municipality (Upper Ngxaxha location, Joe Gqabi District) in the Eastern Cape province.
“For crop production, we have about 252 hectares, specialising with maize, sugar beans, sunflowers, potatoes, cabbage, spinach, and red onion,” she explains.
Vuthela also farms with 30 beef cattle, 50 sheep, and 100 to 200 broilers per batch, which she sells after six weeks. She does this on leased land. She’s currently looking for land where she will be able to increase her production and implement a range of other business strategies.
Success with mixed farming
“Mixed farming provides constant sales while waiting for maize production for six months. The cabbage is ready within three months, on the other hand.”
Conducting a market analysis is key, she shares.
“That helps us know what is needed. For example, we use chicken manure to fertilise vegetable fields, and we also take the spoiled or surplus to feed our animals, which means there is no waste in mixed farming.”
An advertising strategy is another essential and Vuthela markets her crops and livestock through social media, newspapers, radio platforms, word of mouth, and sending samples to the markets.
They supply supermarkets, wholesalers, hospitals, schools, informal traders, and the local community.”
Agri practices and overcoming challenges
Vuthela believes her consistent level of professionalism, quality service and produce, transparency, willingness to listen and learn from her mistakes, and adaptability have helped her achieve success.
Sustainable agricultural practices also contribute to favourable outcomes. On the farm, they implement a rotation strategy to maintain soil fertility and prevent disease.
“Onion is an organic pesticide,” Vuthela says. “We plant it between the cabbages to protect them from pests. Onion also plays a role in protecting the soil from diseases, so we prioritise such crops to maintain great production and quality.”
Vuthela graduated from Fort Cox Agriculture and Forestry Training Institution. After completing her studies, she created the Gedlumhlanga Cooperative with seven members.
“Today, I am proud to say that Gedlumhlanga Youth Co-op and Farmers is the award-winning youth co-operative that was acknowledged through the Eastern Cape Hustlers Awards.
‘We do not sleep’
“We do not sleep. My team and I work very hard because food security, the creation of jobs, and rural development are our priorities,” Vuthela says proudly.
While they have enjoyed the support of various government departments and agricultural organisations, the road hasn’t been easy.
“Lack of machinery, equipment hire, and having to fix things while cultivating are some of the challenges I face, but it’s taught me to work wisely while making sure to invest in the business,” says Vuthela.
“In farming, we work with time; if you lose time, you lose the harvest. At least now we do not hire much equipment for our production due to the assistance we received, although there are still some machines and structures we need to improve.”
Stock theft is another challenge they have faced, but they have since moved their cattle production to a different location.
Mentoring the youth
When she is not running a growing empire, she fulfils her role as the chairperson of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa’s (Afasa) vegetable commodity in the Eastern Cape or trains high school students.
“We [also] donate to the disadvantaged families and we give community members jobs. We give surpluses and rejects to the community and many other benefits,” she explains.
“Currently, we have 23 seasonal workers, and we make sure that with the skills we are teaching them, they also implement them in their homes, especially in their backyards. Some use the skills to do fencing, build storage, and some take care of livestock and crop production.”
“As a youth leader, I always say that as a young person, we have to work hard, knock on every door, and use our voices because nobody will know you’re hungry if you’re quiet.
“The aim is to make agriculture fashionable and inspire more people, especially youth, to take agriculture seriously for food security purposes.”
Watch this space
For farmers looking to cultivate a diverse range of crops, Vuthela underlines that they need to take market analysis and economic issues into consideration.
“Know what your community needs. Do soil tests to know what will grow best in your area. Know the current and long-term needs of your farm. Choose valuable crops that can give you profit, and remember, rotation is very important.”
Vuthela further advises anyone who wants to start farming that agriculture needs a person who is positive, humble, patient, and knows what he or she wants. The destination is also crucial, you have to know where you’re going.
“Positivity in agriculture results in loving your farming; being humble results in respecting your farming; patience results in success in your farming; knowing what you want results in hard work; and knowingly so, hard work pays.”
Equipped with a spirit of humility, patience and appreciation for agriculture, Vuthela looks ahead and envisions agro-processing as a key next step.
This, she says, will create more job opportunities and expand her business. She is also looking at agro-tourism, conducting agricultural seminars, and teaching through television and in the field.
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