Five years ago, Cynthia Mokgobu started a tiny farming operation in her backyard in the Limpopo village of Bochum. Today, she’s supplying vegetables to markets as far afield as Gauteng, and is well on her way to realising her dream of becoming a fully-fledged potato farmer and ensuring food security for her entire village.
This ambitious 29-year-old entrepreneur studied ornamental horticulture at Unisa, but quickly realised during her internship that she wanted to do something more tangible with her skills. From a vegetable patch in her backyard, she is now the proud owner of Mosibudi Trading Enterprise, which farms spinach, butternut and cabbage for local markets, and baby marrows for the lucrative Gauteng markets, on 3 hectares of land outside the village.
Her next goal is to join Potatoes SA’s developer programme, and has just planted her first hectare of potatoes.
Cynthia’s farming journey is also being supported by Anglo American’s De Beers subsidiary, which runs an intensive enterprise development programme to help build skills and create jobs in its host communities, with a focus on woman- and youth-owned businesses.
Last year, 635 small businesses in Limpopo suppliers received mentorship, coaching and other support through partnerships with entities such as the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), TrioPlus, LIMA Rural Development Foundation and UN Women.
“By developing local SMMEs like Cynthia, and supporting them to become sustainable, we can create a lasting impact through skills development, job creation, thriving businesses, and more prosperous communities,” said Livhuwani.Nwachukwu, Socio-Economic Development Manager at Venetia mine.
“Getting involved in the De Beers’ enterprise development programme has been an eye-opener for the business,” says Cynthia. “They have helped me develop my business, management and marketing skills beyond what I could have dreamed of, and given me the confidence to expand and compete more effectively in the marketplace.”
Since joining the programme, one of her first learnings has been to diversify. This has seen her doing landscaping on the side, and even giving farming lessons and advice to small farmers across sub-Saharan Africa via video calls. She also aims to build her partnership with Potatoes SA – but first, she’ll need to debush 16 hectares of land, install a centre pivot and another borehole, and upgrade her electricity to a 3 phase supply. It’s a massive challenge, but she’s ready for it.
“My dream is to see my village being able to feed itself, and to become productive. There’s a high rate of youth unemployment in the area, and I believe that farming will be able to give my people jobs, food and income,” she says.
Her advice for other entrepreneurs in her position? Cynthia has five tips. “One, start small. Start with what you have. Two, have a second source of income if you can. Three, try to find land where you live. It’s hard to manage a business from a distance. Four, make sure you have water before you start anything. You can’t rely on rain alone. And five, start in your own back yard. Introduce yourself to the market. Once people know you, it’s easier to sell your products to them.”