In March 2011, DMT Agricultural Services Co-operative acquired a R2,5 million loan through the National Youth Development Agency’s (NYDA) SME Funding Programme. The young entrepreneurs grow plants such as tea tree and lemongrass for essential oils as well as vegetables such as maize, cabbage, spinach, green pepper, potatoes and butternut.
The co-operative comprises of five members – Zolani Damoyi, Andile Mdunge, Nkanyiso Tsheketshe, Mongezi Mdunge and Chairperson Mfundo Tsheketshe. “We often engage in constructive debates and the co-operative works because we treat each other with respect,” says Mfundo.
The co-operative used the business loan they acquired from the NYDA to buy a tractor, van, seedlings, irrigation, fertiliser, diesel and employees’ salaries. Based in Umzimkulu in rural KwaZulu-Natal, the business employs 16 permanent workers.
“It feels great to know that we are making a difference in alleviating South Africa’s high unemployment levels. There isn’t a day where we don’t get an enquiry about a job, so we definitely need more entrepreneurs in South Africa to create jobs,” Mfundo said.
The young entrepreneurs have ambitious plans for their business. They are currently in the pilot phase of producing bath soap from the essentials oils and ultimately want to open a factory where they can produce various products such as foam bath, bath lotion and soap, Mfundo said.
Asked why they decided to venture into the farming industry, a sector which is not considered popular among young people, Mfundo said it was their love for farming and their determination to find a niche market that led them through this path.
Ploughing back into the community is also an important part of his life. He is a member of a non-profit organisation called Umthombo Wesizwe Development, which highlights issues that affect the environment, addresses moral regeneration and advocates rural development.
Mfundo’s message to aspiring entrepreneurs who are struggling to get their big break is that they should educate themselves and find out about opportunities, such as government support programmes and services, by reading and interacting with people who are in a similar sector.