Nonhlanhla Mokoena-Chimhandamba and her husband Simba Chimhandamba make a formidable team in the farming sector and associated sectors. Not only have they created employment, but they also have a distribution deal with a major retail company, which has helped uplift communities. And through their farm, Urban Growth, they aim to tackle problems like food waste.
Urban Growth was founded in 2015 and has operations in Tshwane and in Diepsloot in Gauteng. It currently employs 35 people, with most of them being young women. Their biggest farm is the 23-hectare farm in Tshwane. “Urban Grown started with a focus in hospitality and agro-processing when Nonhlanhla picked up some stats on the shocking amount of food waste due to proximity,” Chimhandamba said.
“We went on to found Urban Grown with a focus on being a reputable quality supplier of fruit and vegetables within the urban areas, doing our part to curb food waste and establish a profitable business.” Their farms produce spinach, baby marrow, patty pans, baby cabbage, kale and herbs. They own the entire value chain from production to distribution. Starting a business required them to knock on many doors, and their previous careers in corporate and agriculture prepared them on how to sell their idea.
Mokoena-Chimhandambra has 14 years of corporate experience in management for companies like Colgate Palmolive ABM, Multichoice and Nestle South Africa. Passionate about farming and empowering women, she runs Urban Growth’s daily operations. It started by supplying fresh vegetables to a leading hotel group but did not want to stop there. For the past three years, they have been working on a ground-breaking deal with Checkers, which came to fruition this month.
The farm currently supplies the retailer with fresh produce through Checker’s distribution arm Freshmark. “We did not stop knocking,” Chimhandamba said. “In hindsight, those three years also allowed us to practice with other retailers and hospitality clients, and in this time, we also accredited our facilities for food safety and global best practice.” The company also prides itself on empowering a new generation of farmers.
“We consider ourselves custodians of the black farmer’s reputation, where instead of crying about the hardships and inequalities that exist in the agricultural place, we embrace clients like Shoprite that have given us an opportunity and do them proud by honest work,” he also said.