When most people think about organic food, they associate it with high prices as often seen in supermarkets and health stores.
But Nandi Mkwanazi, who owns Nanloy Organic Farm in Wattville in Ekurhuleni and a farm in Limpopo, has a very different approach.
She started selling her produce in 2008, and her business was officially registered in 2019 after years of researching the market.
She now supplies children’s homes, private schools, centres for underprivileged pregnant women and street vendors.
“I saw a need to start an organic farm because there aren’t any organic farms in my area,” she told Vutivi News.
“Many people know that the food they buy is void of any nutrients, and people living in townships struggle to access organic food because it’s so expensive and they don’t have consumer knowledge of organic food.”
While Mkwanazi has received many awards, which have helped boost her profile and make it easier to access the market, she believes it is just as important to give back to the community through the Ayanda Organic Gardens programme.
“The programme was created as a solution to the poverty prevalent in the community of our operation and the country at large. It was named after the first child I taught about organic food cultivation,” she said.
“To date the programme has reached 15 school learners and six families with an average of four to five people in a single family. We also focused on teaching the beneficiaries about indigenous crops and vegetables.”
Mkwanazi, who loved farming when she was a child already, was recently selected as an Ecological Organic Agriculture Pollinator, and her company was the top regional winner of the 2019 Ekurhuleni Economic Development Summit.
Mkwanazi said what separated her farms from others, was a greater emphasis on preserving nature.
“The difference between us and other farms is how we are cognizant of the fact that if we don’t nurture nature, we will not be able to get sustenance from nature,” she said.
“The way that we engage with the environment differs in that we don’t use any chemicals or GMO (genetically-modified organism) seeds. We plant vegetables that are beneficial to each other, and that helps to minimise things like disease, fungus and any other threats that they face.”
She told Vutivi News that her grandmother taught her how to tend to the land.
“From a young age I was able to plough the fields, so I grew up knowing how to grow food and I have always had a desire to sustain myself in that way,” she said.
But it has not always been easy for Mkwanazi. Her business initially grew steadily from my grandmother’s backyard. But when the landlord passes away, the new one kicked her off the property.
“I did not have a written contract with the original homeowner, I had no legal recourse and lost all the produce I had planted as well as the investment that went into correcting and preparing the soil.”
Eventually she was able to secure her two current properties through financial backing from her family.
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