Working the land is second nature to farmer Bongani Mtshali, who grew up with the soil in his boots. His love for farming is so great, that he shares his skills with community members as he believes that everyone should have a vegetable garden.
Hlabana Magalela Supplies was founded by Mtshali and Mzamo Mhlongo in 2012. It supplies cabbages, spinach, butternut, pumpkins, onions, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, chilies, eggplants, dried beans and maize. The farm, which is based in Dannhauser in KwaZulu-Natal, sells its produce to the community and street vendors.
Mtshali told Vutivi News that when he grew up, farming for commercial purposes in his community was uncommon. “For our parents, farming was limited only to growing crops like maize for household uses like producing maize meal for us to eat,” he said.
“It wasn’t like how it is today because today one can turn farming into a viable business,” Mtshali said that his passion for farming has touched the hearts of community members, who have been working with him. “I have decided to draw them closer to me so that they can learn about farming and about gaining from the land,” he said.
His company also has a partnership with Shoprite through its investment in food gardens programme, which supports over 100 food gardens across the country and in Zambia. “We were pleasantly surprised when we learned that Shoprite selected us,” he said.
“They helped us with an irrigation system, working tools and seedlings. They also provide us with permaculture training.” He said the training had been of great assistance and was helping his business thrive. “We wish to see ourselves as one of those farmers that have obtained commercial success, creating jobs along the way.”
Mtshali also said this was why he believed it was important to assist others. “We want people to gain the knowledge of how to be able to produce from their land,” he said. “We want to teach them to be able to transform their homes into sustainable gardens not only to combat hunger but also to be able to make a living for themselves.”
Mtshali did warn though that being a farmer had challenges as many things depended on nature. “When the sun is too hot, our crops and produce suffer. When there is an overabundance of rain, our crops suffer too.”
He said it was also difficult to be a farmer without a steady water supply, which his business often encountered.