For farmer Magaret Ndwandwe of Sigangeni Trading, not even losing the use of her arm stopped her from realising her dream.
Growing up in rural Mpumalanga, Magaret knew that she was destined to be a farmer. By the time she completed her schooling, she already knew what her future held. “Growing up in a farming environment ignited my passion,” she says, “I have never wanted to be anything other than a farmer.”
Persistent and strong-willed, she already had in her sights owning a farm before she obtained her first qualification in 2004. And just as it inspired her to become a farmer, her childhood inspired her to work with what she had — a backyard — instead of being demotivated that she didn’t have hectares of land. She received her B.Tech Diploma in Agriculture through distance learning in 2009.
Ask Magaret where her unbreakable spirit comes from and chances are she will laugh softly and very casually declare that she simply does not give up. “If I want something then I have to get it. I don’t give up and I don’t like failing.”
This attitude has seen her through moments that would have made other people give up. While raising poultry, she was involved in a car accident that put her in the hospital for over three months. Her left arm lost all its functioning ability. “My poultry farm fell apart,” she says, “It was a very difficult time for me but all I could think about was going to back to farming, even though I had new challenges to face as result of the accident.”
She decided to start over. True her character, her second beginning is inspirational. She didn’t have land or money to buy a farm. “I went to what was then the department of land affairs to ask for land. Back then, one had to find a farmer who was willing to sell their land and then make a case to the department of land affairs to buy the farm, which they leased to the prospective farmer.”
She registered Sigangeni Trading in 2007; a year before she received the land that would become Rietvley Farm. Her land secured, she now had to face the uphill battle of raising capital to buy livestock.
“I consulted different stakeholders, including banks and other financial organisations,” she recalls, “I finally got a R110 000 grant in 2010 with the help of an NGO called Technoserve. It had an incubator programme, which came with the opportunity to enter a competition.” She used the money to start livestock production and fence part of the farm.
Magaret is always on the lookout for opportunities to learn new skills and develop her business acumen. This led her to apply to the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme in 2014 but was unsuccessful. True to her character, she didn’t give up and applied again a couple of years later and was successful. This programme offers intensive skills training workshops, face-to-face mentorship, and access to funds and markets. Entrepreneurs are upskilled in all aspects of running a successful business – from costing and pricing, marketing & PR, to financial management and human resources.
Since starting on the Tholoana programme, Margaret has seen a 14% growth in jobs she created within her business. At the moment, the farm has three full-time employees and five casual workers. They supply produce to Pick ‘n Pay and other supermarkets in Barberton. The farm also supplies cattle to local abattoirs and butcheries.
“The Tholoana programme helped me understand the importance of business and financial management, and how to assess my business needs. When I thought I needed more money or land, they recommended that I focus on my irrigation system instead.”
As a result of this assessment and grant money from the Tholoana programme, the farm now has a bigger borehole. Other than being able to grow vegetables in one hectare, which will yield more harvest, she was able to turn seven hectares of the land into a macadamia nut farm.
Ntando Maseko, her Tholoana mentor says: “She is a great participant. She’s not scared to go out and look for networking and marketing opportunities, a skill which has seen her grow and evolve from focusing on just cattle to expanding to vegetable farming and Moringa trees. So the future looks bright for her.”
Margaret now has her sights on growing beyond Mpumalanga and supplying retailers that include Shoprite and Woolworths. “I already have a letter from the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market stating that they’re interested in my produce. The only thing I need now is transportation for the produce.”
She also wants to enter the export market. Sigangeni Trading has recently got export and import code through DTI and they also trained us on export readiness.
For more information about Sigangeni Trading (Rietvley Farm), contact Magaret Ndwandwe.
Find out more about the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise programme here.