Mhlengi Ngcobo (23) is a farmer and social entrepreneur who wishes to see his community prosper.
Ngcobo, from Kwa-Maphumulo in northern KwaZulu-Natal, believes in imparting farming skills to youth to help them rise above poverty and realise their potential.
The young farmer mentors 33 young people who completed his training programme and went on to start their own farming projects. The training targets youth from underprivileged backgrounds. So far, Ngcobo has trained more than 250 youngsters near his farm. Some of them stay in informal settlements.
“If we train people, they can produce their own food and generate their own income if they choose to sell their produce,” Ngcobo says.
He started this self-funded project in the middle of last year. His trainees are taught plant production and hydroponic systems (the growing of plants without soil).
“The 33 people I mentor supply major markets in the province with quality vegetables. This proves that the training programme works,” he says.
Ngcobo regards himself as an accidental commercial farmer. After completing a business management diploma at Berea Technical College in Durban, he struggled to find a job.
In 2019, he started planting crops on his family land, which had been unused for many years.
Today, Ngcobo manages a 120-hectare farm which produces sugarcane, macadamia nuts and cabbages. The farm has open fields for vegetable farming and a space for hydroponic farming. He employs 10 people.
“I sell my vegetables to local retailers, wholesalers, supermarkets and the Durban Fresh Produce Market, which is one of the biggest markets in KwaZulu-Natal,” he says.
Ngcobo encourages youth to initiate their own projects and only expect government support to meet them halfway. He also advises those with academic qualifications like him, but who are battling to find work, to consider entering other fields to make it in life.
For more information contact Mhlengi Ngcobo on 076 961 1177