JOHANNESBURG - Organic farmer and entrepreneur Nomsa Ngwenya says she’s developed strategies to mitigate against climate change at her successful Phalaborwa farm, NTL Baraka Eco-Farming and Tourism, in Limpopo.
She started farming tomatoes and cucumbers in 2002, which she supplied to Pick n Pay outlets in Pretoria.
Her big break came five years later when someone introduced her to the Moringa plant in 2007, which changed her fortunes around.
Today, Ngwenya runs an organic-certified multi-million rand operation, boasting clients from European countries including France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Qatar, Slovenia, The Netherlands and even the United States.
The Moringa plant, which is regarded as the new superfood, is known for its highly nutritious profile as it contains significant amounts of Vitamin A, C, and E; calcium, potassium, and protein.
It is also used to treat and prevent diabetes, heart and liver diseases, arthritis, and digestive problems, among others.
Ngwenya, who holds a BSc honours degree from the University of Limpopo, exhibited at Vitafoods Europe, an expo for sports, nutrition and healthy lifestyle, in Geneva, in 2014.
In 2017 she netted 69 international clients, with the Top 10 requesting to be supplied with 15 tons of Moringa per month. This year she got another 75 clients at the expo, with the Top 10 wanting 21 tons of the plant per month.
“This equates to 36 tons of Moringa per month,” she says. A ton is US$6000, which equates to about R78 000/ton.
To be able to meet the demand, Ngwenya has to plant 75ha of Moringa trees. She has already started looking for other growers to form a united front. She also plans to plant an extra 20ha of her farm land to Moringa.
The award-winning farmer says farming Moringa has helped him do her bit to address climate change. “Moringa absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If we grow a lot of it will result in reduced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
The plant, she says, is also very water efficient. “It has survived the drought. In fact, it’s drought-resistant and it can be grown anywhere.”
Ngwenya was among the farmers who made a presentation at the BRICS seminar on climate smart approaches, attended by agriculture ministers from the developing nations, among other delegates.
She maintains that global warming is real and has affected her 42ha farm’s boreholes.
“Climate change has affected me personally. We have five boreholes at the farm, but two of them stopped working. I called some guys to check what the problem was and they said the water has dried up.”
Besides that, other issues she’s had to contend with are the fall armyworm, one of the most destructive insect pests globally, and changing weather patterns.
“In my regions we used to get good rains in September, but that doesn’t happen anymore,” she says.
A joint declaration by the BRICS bloc stated that they were concerned about the rising food prices, farmers’ income drop and agriculture input costs which have a negative impact to the local and global economies.
“It is critical to continuously improve support of on and off farm infrastructure, as well as support to producers in the form of advisory services, access to markets, creating efficiency of markets, food safety quality certification programmes, as well as technology development and transfer, reducing food loss and waste.”
- BUSINESS REPORT