Mkwanazi's project is both commercial and charitable

Farming to hold back hunger

Nandi Mkwanazi’s passion for farming has allowed her to share her knowledge with schools in her community.
Nandi Mkwanazi’s passion for farming has allowed her to share her knowledge with schools in her community.

Nandi Mkwanazi of Wattville in Benoni on the East Rand is using her passion for farming as a powerful weapon to fight poverty and food insecurity in her community.

She is the owner of Nanloy Organic Farm, which is an agricultural start-up that aims to combine innovation and indigenous African knowledge to produce high-value organic fresh produce.

The 34-year-old’s business was established last year in response to a lack of local sustainable food security solutions.

Although it is just a year old, Nanloy Organic Farm has a programme called Ayanda Organic Gardens, which Mkwanazi created in an effort to address poverty in her community by teaching schools and individuals in Benoni how to grow their own food.

“The vision of the programme is to reach most of the urban communities in SA and Africa at large. We aim to target hot spots of unemployment, poverty and hunger in cities and small towns,” she says.

According to Mkwanazi, investments in nutrition and education are essential to break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition.

Mkwanazi started her business in her grandmother’s backyard with nothing but the seeds that her mother gave her. Today she operates from a piece of land she leases in Benoni and from the land in Limpopo her family purchased.

“From the research I did I was able to determine what to plant and how to prepare the land for my plants to grow. I then formulated a business plan and got myself an industry expert, Siphiwe Sithole of African Marmalade, to mentor me,” she says.

Because of the value that mentorship added to her business, Mkwanazi understands the importance of transferring knowledge and skills.

“We have implemented the Ayanda Organic Gardens programme in one school. Unfortunately, our plans to expand into other schools were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic but we are working on restarting the programme in schools,” she adds.

The programme has also reached six families, with an average of four to five people in a single family, totalling a reach of roughly 30 people.

Her business has so far created three permanent jobs and six seasonal ones at both farms. The fresh produce she sells to locals include amarantha (imbuya/thepe), cowpeas (izindumba/ dinawa), indigenous pumpkin, sorghum, inkakha and ibeche.

“I have received support in the form of business development from the National Youth Development Agency and the Small Enterprise Development Agency,” Mkwanazi says.

She is is a qualified project manager and an LLB candidate at Unisa.

-This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele.

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