The name Tsakani Mhlongo may not ring a bell to most people, but with time it surely will, particularly in the farming circles. The young and dynamic woman is fast building her name as a symbol of success and a source of inspiration to women her age.
Born and bred in Tzaneen, Miss Mhlongo was born to Emmanuel and Rosalia, who themselves were farmers. She recalls helping her father to milk cows and also accompanying her father in his bakkie as they drove to and from the farm.
Starting her own farm
In 2018 she founded her own farm called Swa Tsakani Farming in Swireresa farm. It operates on 10ha family property that she is currently leasing from her parents. But currently she is using the 4ha to cultivate a range of crops including Okra, butternut, spinach, brinjal, chillies, tomatoes, and poultry (broilers) farming. She sells her fresh produce via the Joburg Fresh Produce Market and some to the local supermarkets and the local community. Miss Mhlongo says her parents farmed in poultry and vegetables, and also reared few cattle and sheep. To ensure her farm remains fertile and productive, Miss Mhlongo follows crop rotation which is highly recommended by farming experts including the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
Miss Mhlongo also works for a mining company and uses her salary to fund her farm operations. She holds corporate communications and project management qualifications and uses the skills and knowledge she gained from these to ensure the farm runs professionally and efficiently. She says the reason why she leased the farm from her parents is to make sure she separates business from family and that she wanted to continue her parents’ legacy and investments. Miss Mhlongo is also grateful for the co-operation and the camaraderie that has developed among the local farmers where they visit one another and compare notes on a number of issues related to farming.
Her main crop is okra, an indigenous and nutritious African food known for many health benefits. She says the demand for the magic vegetable shot up dramatically particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Miss Mhlongo says okra is easy to grow as it able to thrive in arid soil and advises that it is ideal to plant in spring before harvesting it in winter as it does not grow well in extreme cold weather. She says the vegetable also grows well in Limpopo as the climate is warm and as such it can be grown throughout the year.
Not only does Miss Mhlongo’s farm provide jobs but it also contributes towards food security as well as promotes food gardening in the local communities. She says farming is a lucrative sector that opens up a lot of business opportunities particularly and advises women and the youth to explore it. She says there is a great need to resuscitate indigenous food crops in the country as well as contribute to the economic growth; facilitating skills and technology transfer to the next generation of farmers.
Her main dream is to promote farming and inspire more women to get involved in farming and thereby create more jobs for women. She is positive and excited about the growth prospect of the sector and the growing number of youth especially young women who show interest in farming.