Young KZN woman shines at business awards

Saturday, August 24, 2013
Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - It was a tough title to win, but 27-year-old Nomzamo Mthethwa-Khoza has shown that determination and hard work do indeed pay off when she walked away with the coveted Female Entrepreneur of the Year title.

Another feather in Mthethwa-Khoza’s decorated business hat is the Top Entrepreneur: Export Markets title and R500 000 in prize money as the overall winner of the awards.

Basking in the fruits of her hard work, the feisty businesswoman from KwaZulu-Natal had this to say to young, aspiring entrepreneurs: “Agriculture right now is the only way to go!”

Speaking to SAnews after the glitzy award ceremony held in Irene outside Pretoria on Friday night, Mthethwa-Khoza said: “I did not expect to get this far. Looking back at the work that I do, I’m very excited to be able to get something that will help me to go even further as a female entrepreneur.

“This achievement will give a lot of exposure to our farm enterprise, which is divided into two companies, People’s Bio Oil (PBO) and Morana Fire for Africa. To fellow young South Africans, you must know that agriculture is the only way to go.”

According to the young farmer, whose enterprise is situated in the Mnini area near Port Shepstone, her achievement will also help dispel the myth that agriculture is only a sector for men.

“Currently, we produce 201 products from the moringa tree and these include tonics, capsules, hair food, body products and seasonings. All products made by PBO are natural with no chemicals.”

Moringa, native to parts of Africa and Asia, is the sole genus in the flowering plant family Moringaceae. The name is derived from the Tamil word Murungai. It contains 13 species from tropical and subtropical climates that range in size from tiny herbs to massive trees.

Much of the plant is edible by humans or by farm animals. The leaves are rich in protein, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C and minerals. 100g of fresh Moringa leaves have 8.3g protein, 434mg calcium, 404mg potassium, 738μg vitamin A, and 164mg vitamin C.

Mthethwa-Khoza’s business is testament of the usefulness of the moringa tree. Asked about the number of jobs she has created, Mthethwa-Khoza, who has been active in agriculture for more than 10 years said: “At the moment, there are 120 people who are working at our nurseries, farm, offices and the factory.”

She said there were 200 distributors of their moringa products, adding that they have already opened outlets in Mozambique and Argentina.

“We are also planning to open another outlet in the United States of America very soon,” she said with a well-deserved smile.

Speaking at the awards, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson used the platform to encourage South Africans to be vocal in the fight against hunger, poverty and unemployment.

“I want to encourage every man and woman to be a voice against [all forms of violence against women], hunger, poverty and unemployment,” she said.

Commercial agriculture shows positive growth

Joemat-Pettersson said commercial agriculture has grown after government’s vigorous drive to gain access to additional markets for commercial farmers, who are now exporting to the Middle East, Far East, Central and South America. The minister said South Africa had “conquered its non-traditional export markets”.

“The diminishing economy of the EU and the US did not affect the sector as badly as it would have if we did not go out and claim alternative markets for our commercial farmers,” she said.

The minister said the agriculture sector had been able to the absorb 53% wage increase for farmworkers, which came into effect earlier this year. She described this as “a huge achievement”.

“The sector absorbed a 53% wage increase, while it was growing jobs and it did not shed jobs. The doomsayers who said agriculture will collapse if farmworkers received R105 a day have been proven wrong. 

“Farmworkers need a decent life, they need a decent living wage. If farmers are still not paying farmworkers the minimum wage of R105 a day, we urge them to either apply for exemption or face the wrath of the law.”

Joemat-Pettersson said Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant had agreed to increase the number of labour inspectors, who will go out to monitor farms where there are still incidents of farmworkers not being paid R105 a day.

Agriculture a game changer

She said Cabinet has described agriculture as a real game changer. While the country was battling to achieve 2% economic growth, the sector had shown an annual growth of 7%.

“That is very good. Agriculture has shown year-on-year growth,” said Joemat-Pettersson.

General Manager of Sales and Marketing at Total South Africa, Pansy Mekwa, described their public-private partnership with the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Department as a good vehicle for the upliftment and empowerment of women.

Throughout her speech, Mekwa made reference to the 2010 overall winner of the awards, Mavis Mathabatha, who started with 12 moringa trees. Mathabatha has now expanded her plantation to 7 500 trees in a 15ha orchard and is exporting crushed moringa, powder moringa and moringa capsules to Indonesia, the USA and UK.     

Mekwa said the partnership with the department recognised the contribution of female entrepreneurs towards poverty alleviation.

She said Total sponsored the awards because they wanted to intensify women’s efforts in playing a greater role in society and agriculture, which showed their commitment to feeding the nation.

Award categories and winners

  • Best Female Worker in the Sector: Siphiwe Machika from Gauteng
  • Best Subsistence Producer in the Sector: Kenalemang Olga Kgoroeadira from the North West
  • Top Entrepreneur in the Sector: Smallholder: Lungelwa Kama from the Eastern Cape 
  • Top Entrepreneur: Processing: Mpho Rosy Molete-Matlanyane from the Free State
  • Top Female Entrepreneur: Commercial: Thandi Cynthia Mokwena from Mpumalanga    
  • Top Entrepreneur: National Markets: Maria Malan from the Northern Cape 
  • Minister’s Special Award (which recognises young entrepreneurs and/or persons with disability in the sector): Josephine Mabyalwa Raserope-Rikhotso from KwaZulu-Natal 

The annual awards commence at provincial level and culminate in the national awards, where all provinces compete in the different categories. The ceremony always takes place during Women’s Month.

In line with government’s programme of action, the awards seek to contribute to the mainstreaming of women, youth and people with disabilities in the sector through food security, job creation, economic growth and poverty alleviation. -

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