Netwoking helped small-scale farmer get into the big time 

Limpopo-born farmer Benjamin Nkanyane is relishing the prospect of breaking into the big market, and he has struck a contract with one of the major national retail chains after five years of selling his produce informally. 

Nkanyane, 36, established Ndavhula Farming after quitting his job in 2019 to create employment for black farmers. 

“I did a bit of research in my community and identified a gap in the school feeding scheme as they needed fresh vegetables for the pupils”  

Nkanyane told Sunday World that he secured the contract with the major retailers through networking.  

“Networking is critical in this sector because it assisted me secure the contracts. A company owner who was already inside their system walked me through the process. As a small-scale farmer, you cannot achieve everything on your own. You must establish associations.” 

He said the contract meant he would be able to achieve his main objective of creating jobs for many others. 

“This means that I will create employment all year round and probably retain my seasonal employees by the end of April 2025,” he said. 

Resilience and his determination to help others kept him going. Since starting his business, Nkanyane has trained approximately 19 college and university students who aspire to be farmers and has employed four permanent staff. 

“My seasonal workers vary from time to time and this year we had 30 seasonal workers while I monitor and guide those that I trained who have already opened farms of their own.” 

He said he had to put his BSc degree in Agriculture studies on hold to start his business. 

“I had already identified a market. However, things took a turn when Covid-19 hit because schools were closed, and I wanted to shut down.  

Nkanyane noted that his business suffered from a lack of marketing, and Metropolitan Collective Shapers supplied him with funds and introduced him to Agri Enterprise, which helps him with the day-to-day running of the business. 

“Sometimes passion for farming is not enough if one lacks the basic skills to run a business and understanding that the food must be tested before it can get to any market. 

“Being GAP certified means, one needs between R100 000 to R200 000, to get the certification. This process is used by many retail companies, and it questions the health and safety of the workers and if the produce is safe for the end users.” 

He highlighted the importance of proper budgeting for businesses to thrive. “No expense is too small. Labour, land, and chemicals are important but so is rent, electricity, transport, unpredictable weather conditions and crop insurance.”  

Ntuthuko Shezi, the founder of Livestock Wealth, stated that there is no funding for primary farmers. “I wouldn’t advise anyone who is starting their business to want to compete with big companies that are already established. Start small and be patient enough to see your business grow.” 

Metropolitan CEO Peter Tshiguvho pointed out that the unemployment rate surged in the first quarter, with youth representing the biggest percentage of the unemployed. 

He added they launched the Collective Shapers to empower entrepreneurs around South Africa, one province at a time. 

“We started in Limpopo, Tshwane and we are now in KwaZulu-Natal. We ensure that we support them with the funds they need, and expose them to our networks like Agri SA.  

“We would cover the whole country but provinces are chosen based on research.” 

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