Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)
Organic farmer sets sights on international markets
Moringa plant has been one of the success stories for her
ORGANIC farmer and businesswoman Nomsa Ngwenya says she has adapted to the vagaries of nature by developing strategies to mitigate against climate change at her successful Phalaborwa farm, NTL Baraka Eco-Farming and Tourism, in Limpopo.
Ngwenya says she ventured into farming without much experience but quickly learnt how to own a successful agricultural business.
From a one-time tomatoes and cucumbers farmer in 2002, Ngwenya has expanded into an exporter of organic food to overseas markets.
The award-winning farmer says farming Moringa, for example, has helped her do her bit to address climate change.
“Moringa absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If we grow a lot of it, 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.”
It has been a long journey for Ngwenya – from supplying a single supermarket to boasting clients in countries far away from her native Mpumalanga province.
Her big break came in 2007 when someone introduced her to Moringa. This proved to be a masterstroke, which turned her fortunes around. It also catapulted her to being a player in the organic-certified multimillion-rand operation that supplies to clients in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Qatar, Slovenia, The Netherlands – and even the US.
The Moringa plant, which is regarded as the new superfood, is known for its highly nutritious profile as it contains significant amounts of vitamins 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 gained another 75 clients at the expo, with the top 10 wanting 21 tons of the plant per month.
This, she says, equates to about 36 tons of Moringa per month. A ton is worth $6 000, which equates to about R78 000/ton.
To be able to meet the demand, Ngwenya has to plant 75 hectares of Moringa trees. She has already started looking for other growers to form a united front.
She also plans to devote an extra 20ha of her farm land to Moringa.
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 had dried up.”
Besides that, other issues she has had to contend with are the fall armyworm – one of the most destructive pests globally – and changing weather patterns.
“In my region we used to get good rains in September, but that doesn’t happen any more,” says Ngwenya.
A joint declaration by the BRICS bloc stated that they were concerned about rising food prices, the drop in farmers’ incomes, and agriculture input costs, which have a negative impact on 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, and reducing food loss and waste.”