Mxolisi – An emerging young farmer

Mxolisi Nkambule

Mxolisi Nkambule

One of the unexpected outcomes of Covid is the growing number of emerging young farmers who are born and bred in Tjakastad, Elukwatini, in Mpumalanga, South Africa. For many of these young farmers, Mxolisi Nkambule is their role model and inspiration. 

Mxolisi started farming in 2017 out of desperation but soon discovered a passion for farming that came as a big surprise to everyone who knows him, including himself. He is one of the few youth from the area who went to university. He is often asked how someone with his education can be interested in farming. He replies: “Most people, especially youth, think that farming is for uneducated and poor people but, after I plunged in, I soon saw that farming requires you to be smart.” 

After completing his matric, Mxolisi enrolled for a bachelor of sociology but dropped out of varsity for various reasons. His stint at university did not help in finding employment. Mxolisi had been unemployed for several years when, in 2017, his first born was expected. This pushed him to make money. Driven by hunger, despair and his love for his unborn child, Mxolisi was forced to start a small farming business, planting and selling tomatoes. 

“My only option was farming. I didn’t care what people would think. The only thing was to be able to support my child.  That’s when I developed my passion.”

Before starting the business, Mxolisi approached a few people who were already in farming to find out about the production of tomatoes. He also did his own research including calculations to determine how much money he could expect to make. After working out what he could earn from one tomato plant, he realised the business was viable and decided to buy 200 tomato seedlings. He was very enthusiastic and expected his tomatoes to be perfect like the ones in the shops, but he soon encountered challenges. His tomatoes developed diseases and were attacked by various pests. 

At this point Mxolisi realised he needed to consult experienced farmers to find solutions to the challenges he was facing. One of the people he spoke to was Xabangane Vilakazi, a wise man who possessed lots of farming knowledge. His father had been a farmer and used to sell cabbages back in the days.  Xabangane taught Mxolisi a lot and gave him useful information on how to deal with pests and diseases, and this encouraged him to do things in a better way.  As time went by, Mxolisi started to make an income and his passion for agriculture grew more each day. He planted a variety of crops like cabbages, spinach, maize, and carrots. 


During 2021 Mxolisi started attending EarthLore’s community dialogues and agroecology trainings. In addition to learning how to farm by following nature’s example, the dialogues aroused Mxolisi’s interest in learning about indigenous knowledge. He encourages other youth in Tjakastad to attend the community dialogues where things like rain-making rituals are discussed. Mxolisi also participated in the annual Elukwatini Seed and Food Fair, held in October 2021, where he spoke passionately on behalf of the youth. 

Mxolisi has started an initiative where he teaches and shares information and knowledge with young farmers who have backyard gardens. “I become very happy when I see other young people enjoying farming. I encourage them by sharing my seeds and showing them how to look after their crops and soil, and to grow as much food as they can irrespective of the size of their gardens.” 

Mxolosi is looking forward to the day when he gets a bigger farm. In the meantime, farming on a small piece of land is equipping him to deal with many of the issues that he will encounter when he has more land. 

In English Mxolisi means sorry but no one in Tjakastad is sorry that Mxolisi found his passion for farming. His message to youth, who are unsuccessfully looking for jobs in the precarious world we live in, is that farming provides security if one is curious and willing to learn new things every day to eventually become food and seed sovereign. This is Mxolisi’s dream.  A dream he shares with small-scale farmers worldwide. 

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