My name is Sinethemba Masinga, and I’m a 23-year-old farmer based in Ndwedwe. My journey with PROTEC began in 2015 when I was in grade 11 at Verulam Secondary School. After high school, I enrolled at the University of KwaZulu Natal to do a BSc in Life and Earth Science, majoring in biochemistry and microbiology. I decided to pursue this degree as I had done science subjects for years and coming from a rural and struggling background, I had big goals.
However, I wasn’t being honest with myself, my passion was really for agriculture. I spent years trying to finish the degree hoping that after graduating so I would be able to support my family. After a few torturous years of exclusions and readmissions, I decided not to go back for my final year as I was not doing well and told my parents I was ready to run the family business full-time.
It was very difficult for them considering that I was their chance to provide for the family. So decided to become self-employed and formalize the family business.
Now I’m currently the CEO and Director of Sinesthembiso Produce and Emseni NPO. Getting into the agricultural industry, and at such a young age, was tough. I had the knowledge and skill sets to farm but lacked knowledge to run an agribusiness. I attended workshops on weekends, have mentors that are experienced and did research from time to time. It’s an occupation that has taught me discipline, resilience and patience despite intense challenges. I may not be closer to the 10-year plan that I had set out for myself, yet I’m grateful because within a few years we were able to get access to the market, increase revenue and create job opportunities for the youth in my community.
Following our realization of the need for job creation in our community, we recruited young people to participate in the production of locally grown organic food to help eradicate hunger and poverty in Ndwedwe. The Emseni NPO was founded because we believe that teaching children still in school about the importance of agriculture is a better method to enhance food security and nutrition. After observing the lack of food systems in the school curriculum, we decided to teach the little ones how to grow their own food. Teaching them these skills will create a communal ripple effect in our community’s food system. Today, we currently have school gardens in primary schools in our community, where children get to plant and harvest food they can cook and take home with them. We are small scale farmers, so we are currently producing spinach and red ground nuts. The NPO decided to plant spinach because it produces large yields and makes a lot of revenue, thus making profit for the organisation. Red ground nuts are very difficult to find and can only survive in summer. However, we take a risk every year and plant them all season, as they are very much in demand. Access to the market has never been a problem for us.
The problem we face is that we work on 1.5 hectares while the market wants more, the market is bigger than us.