Nandi Mkwanazi (34) of Wattville in Benoni is using her passion for farming as a powerful weapon to fight poverty and food insecurity in her community.
She is the owner of Nanloy Organic Farm, which is an agricultural start-up that aims to combine innovation and indigenous African knowledge to produce high-value organic fresh produce.
Her business was established in 2019 in response to a lack of local sustainable food security solutions.
Although it is just a year old, Nanloy Organic Farm has a programme called Ayanda Organic Gardens, which Mkwanazi created in an effort to address poverty in her community by teaching schools and individuals in Benoni how to grow their own food.
“The vision of the programme is to reach most of the urban communities in South Africa and Africa at large. We aim to target hotspots of unemployment, poverty and hunger in cities and small towns,” she says.
According to Mkwanazi, investments in nutrition and education are essential to break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition.
Mkwanazi started her business in her grandmother’s backyard with nothing but the seeds that her mother gave her. Today she operates from land in Limpopo that was purchased by her family and space she leases in Benoni.
“From the research I did, I was able to determine what to plant and how to prepare the land for my plants to grow. I then formulated a business plan and got myself an industry expert, Siphiwe Sithole of African Marmalade, to mentor me,” she says.
Because of the value that mentorship added to her business, Mkwanazi understands the importance of transferring knowledge and skills.
“We have implemented the Ayanda Organic Gardens programme in one school. Unfortunately, our plans to expand into other schools were suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but we are working on restarting the programme in schools,” she adds.
The programme has also reached six families, with an average of four to five people in a single family, totalling a reach of roughly 30 people.
Her business has so far created three permanent jobs and six seasonal ones at both farms. The fresh produce – including amarantha (imbuya/thepe), cowpeas (tinhlumayo/izindumba), indigenous pumpkin, sorghum, inkakha and ibeche – is sold to locals.
“I have received support in the form of business development from the National Youth Development Agency and the Small Enterprise Development Agency,” she says.
Mkwanazi is a qualified project manager and a LLB candidate at UNISA.