She only started with her farming journey two years ago, but success has followed the 28-year-old Ncumisa Mkabile from the Eastern Cape, South Africa. This community activist and farmer has since won awards and became an influencer for highly influential brands in the country. And she’s not done yet.
Born in Cofimvaba, Mkabile moved to Cape Town at the tender age of six and her love of entrepreneurship started when she helped her father at their home tuck shop.
The travel and tourism graduate from Boston City Campus, resigned from her job at the City of Cape Town in 2018 to kick-start her business of selling sweets and African food in Khayelitsha.
“In 2018 the demand for African food and everything that I was selling was in demand. I opened a catering company in January 2020, but while the business started getting shape, Covid hit and I had to close,” Mkabile says.
“I was doing door-to-door deliveries but with Covid-19 level 5 restrictions, we were not allowed to move. Everyone was scared. We tried selling through takeaways, but people were scared to go out, so the operations were not working – hence we decided to close it.”
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
Mkabile decided to venture into farming on a two-hectare piece of land at a nearby school. She farms with spinach and sells chickens.
“I decided to approach UXolo High School to get their piece of land that was not used, to start my operations. The other reason was that I could not get funding because I didn’t have a lease agreement for the other land I was using.
“I am happy to be here because there is access to water and electricity and since the land belongs to a school, I don’t need a lease agreement,” she explains.
She says she is delighted at the amount of success she’s experienced in a short period.
“I am a self-taught farmer, and my fears went out of the window the minute I started working the land. The support structure has really been my community who are supporting me wholeheartedly.
“In giving back to the very same community, I have employed seven people – two permanent while the other five are seasonal. I supply my spinach to the local Spar supermarket, most areas in Khayelitsha and to ordinary community members,” she shares.
Go-getter and influencer
Mkabile won the Realise A Dream competition, which helped her to purchase her irrigation system machinery earlier this year.
She is a current influencer for Bar One chocolate and a former influencer for Blue Ribborn bread and Unicef, as a young person serving in the community.
“I want to be a commercial farmer and create jobs for the people in my area of Khayelitsha. That is where I want to see myself going in the next few years. Giving back to the community is critical for me.
Mkabile says it is through education and training that the issues of food security could be addressed, and she sees herself as a role player in equipping youth who want to get into the sector and contribute.
“I received a lot of opportunities and doors opened for me, so I want to create that platform for fellow young people who want to be farmers.”
A leading example
Mkabile was recently appointed the chairperson of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) Youth in the Western Cape.
“There is a lot that needs to be done. My role as a leader of Afasa Youth is firstly to organise a roadshow that is coming in September that will raise awareness among black farmers about opportunities available to them.
“We want to bring in services to black farmers closer to their doorsteps and collaborate with state-owned entities that are assisting young people in farming. We want to motivate young people in farming through this coming roadshow,” she explains.
According to Mkabile, there are a lot of young farmers in the Western Cape who are doing well but need guidance and resources to up their game.
“Our role as young people will also be to give information to young people, which doors to knock on when they need help, where to go to purchase tools of the trade, create awareness on how to access market or acquire a piece of land. That is what we will be doing.”