No choice but to be successful

Written by Hlengiwe Ngobese
When professional nurse Nomqondiso Mbhalo, 46, started raising chicks she had no idea it would motivate her to start an award-winning business.

Nomqondiso Mbhalo feeding pigs on her farm. Skills to improve food security. (Image: North West Premier's Office) (Image: Hlengiwe Ngobese)With her husband she owns the 46 hectare Simba Mabhele Farm in Marburg, on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

Her farm received the Best Commercial Farm Award in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture Female Farmer Awards. Simba Mabhele breeds and sells pigs and chickens to the market for meat production, has cows and harvests sugar cane annually.

The farm has 1 225 pigs and 5 000 chickens and on average sells 40 pigs a week and 300 chickens per fortnight. Mbhalo plans to increase the pig cell units from 120 to 400. 

Mbhalo, who resigned from her job to start the farm, said: “When we started this farm we didn’t have a start-up capital. We had to sell our home in Vunga and I took my package at work. We invested all that money here. We didn’t have a choice but to make it work. But that money was only for buying a farm. We needed R2-million to build for pigs and chickens.

“Luckily Old Mutual gave us that loan. It is still difficult to maintain the farm as we are still repaying that loan,” she says.

Mbhaolo employs 16 permanent workers and hires 30 casuals for planting and harvesting.

She says that since starting the farm in 2000 she has faced a number of challenges. The main one was buying pig feed. “At first we were planting our own maize – that helps a lot with feeding – but now we no longer planting because of drought. I had to buy food every week for
R60 000,” she said.

Babongile Hlophe, 54, a worker at Simba Mabhele farm, says she enjoys her work because it helps her to provide for her family.

“I don’t have any plans to move. One of my future plans is to start my own piggery as I have gained a lot of experience here. When I started working here, I used to rent. My employer has built me a four-room house for free,” she says.

Mbhalo tells aspiring farmers to be patient. “The farming business is not simple as it looks. You must have patience because you cannot start now and make money tomorrow. It is long process that requires patience and a love of farming.”

Mbhalo said the secrets to success are determination, commitment, exchanging experience with other farmers and a love of farming.