Andile Ngwenya was born and raised in Ladysmith, an isolated and rural area with limited resources in KwaZulu-Natal. Owning a farm was never Andile's dream but today his farm supplies some of the biggest supermarkets, like Spar, with fresh vegetables every month.
Andile Ngwenya founded Bumbanani Mantimande Farm back in 2015, along with his older brother, Simanga. Growing up, both brothers helped their father with farming by going with him to the nearby field where he grew vegetables for the family to eat. Andile wasn't fond of this chore and decided that he would do well at school, work in an office and never plant anything again.
For six years, Andile worked as an IT specialist at a local government office in KwaZulu-Natal but realised he was a farmer at heart. He resigned from his job and started his own journey as a farmer and an entrepreneur.
Andile shares that starting the business was a daunting and stressful experience. The brothers didn’t have any business knowledge and only basic knowledge about farming. They learnt about how a business is run and worked hard to ensure the business was a success. As an initial investment, both brothers cashed out on their savings and retirement funds to buy a tractor and a bakkie to assist in running the daily operations.
Starting with just two hectares of farm land the brothers initially only grew sugar beans and between 2015 and 2016 suffered drought conditions, which made it hard to grow crops and generate an income. They could not afford to employ anyone and worked the land themselves.
Now three and a half years into their business the two brothers regret nothing about their decision. They are grateful, even for the hard times which made them realise how much the business meant to them. They now look back and are thankful that they didn't give up.
In 2017, Bumbanani Mantimande Farm was accepted as a participant in the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme, which they say changed their lives. “We thank the SAB Foundation for accepting us in the programme, before joining we were running the business like it was a Spaza shop but through the SAB Foundation we managed to register the business and formalise it by complying with SARS”, explains Andile.
With the funding they received from the SAB Foundation they bought equipment for the business which included a travelling rolling irrigator which made it easier to irrigate 10 to 20 hectares of land in a week. “Before we bought this travelling irrigator, we used a drip irrigator which we had to move around the farm to water the vegetables. We also used buckets to manually water the vegetables,” he says. They also bought computers for the business which helped them with business documents and farm management.
The farm now employs 10 permanent and 20 part-time employees. “It is truly amazing to see how this business is growing, we started out by planting just sugar beans, but since joining the programme, we have managed to buy more land and create jobs. We started with two hectares and we now have 30, allowing us to plant more vegetables, including green peppers, cabbages, spinach, peppadews and this, year we are starting to plant potatoes,” says Andile.
Andile is passionate about empowering people in his community and does this by employing only people from the area. He hopes this will assist in combating the high unemployment rate. He also mentors the youth in his community by training them to become entrepreneurs. With the help of the SAB Foundation, Andile explains that their turnover increased from R100 000 for two seasons to R300 000 per season.
Andile encourages people to go for their dreams and believes anything is possible regardless of the community or background you come from as long as you don't give up when you are faced with adversity.