From school drop-out to successful farmer: How Mhlonipheni Zulu changed his community

From school drop-out to successful farmer: How Mhlonipheni Zulu changed his community

- A 54-year-old man dropped out of school to help his father look after his cattle

- Fast forward a few years and the same man owns his own successful farm

- Mhlonipheni Zulu helps out struggling families in his community by giving them jobs on his 820-hectare farm

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Today, Mhlonipheni Zulu is running a profitable agriculture business on the 820-hectare Gelykwater Farm in Babanango, KwaZulu-Natal.

According to TimesLIVE the 54-year-old farmer breeds and sells cattle, sheep and chickens. In a year Zulu sells between 60 and 70 cows.

However, his farm is not only about making a profit for himself- it is about empowering an entire community.

Since he started farming, Zulu gave jobs to nine permanent workers from struggling families in his local community.

He also plans on adding six more jobs once the maize and bean harvesting season starts. During harvesting season in the past, Zulu used 300 workers but it was cut down to 40 when he introduced farming machinery.

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Aside from his farm, the ambitious man owns Siyawisa Hlathi, a tree harvesting company.

It was the savings of the tree harvesting company that helped Zulu buy the land he farms on today, which was something he described as difficult.

“I didn’t have enough money to fence the farm. I approached Ithala Bank for a loan and luckily my application was successful.

The financial diffuclties pushed Zulu to make a success of his farm, he added he invested every last penny he had, and he had a loan to pay off, so he had no choice but to succeed.

Zulu explained he faced several challenges when he started farming two-years-ago- he had to find suitable workers to help with the animals while he was busy at the tree harvesting company.

“The animals are like babies and they need to be looked after 24/7. You have to be there all the time and always have a stock of medication, especially for ticks,” he said.

Zulu’s creation of jobs gave Nkosinathi Mhlongo the opportunity to do something he enjoys while being able to provide for his family at the same time.

“I don’t have any plans to move. In future, I want to breed and sell chickens because I have gained a lot of experience here,” he said.

Zulu wants to send a message to other people, who might not have access to education, to never give up.

“Education is important, but if you didn’t have access to it, like me, you must try to do something you enjoy and have the skills to do the work,” he added.

Giving advice to farmers starting out, Zulu said the key was patience.

“The farming business is not as simple as it looks. You must have patience because you cannot start now and make money tomorrow. It is a long process that requires patience and a love of farming,” he said.

When he’s not farming, Zulu works at Siyawisa Hlathi alongside his wife, Nkosingiphile, a former teacher.

“To work with my wife helps a lot, because she is always there for the business,” he said.

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