Sizwe Gumbi grew up with farming. From as long as he can remember, ploughing vegetables has always been a way of life. We spoke to the young man in a quest to find out about him and his life long passion.
BD: Where were you born and what was your childhood like?
SCG: I am a native of South Africa, born in Mpumalanga under Mkhondo local municipality in Driefontein. I grew up in a poor but supportive family. My parents had no stable job. My mother was a domestic worker, and my father used to do maintenance work.
SCG: My school years were good, I was respectful towards my educators. As my passion for farming grew, when there were career exhibitions, I would be the only one who would attend and enquire about careers related to agriculture. I unfortunately did not do well in grade 12, but I did not give up on agriculture and farming. I also loved it because it is one of the few careers you can succeed in, even if you are not strong academically. All I had was my love and passion for it.
BD: What kind of a neighbourhood did you grow up in?
SCG: The neighbourhood I grew up in is a very tightly knit neighbourhood. We are all family, and very supportive of each other.
BD: What inspired the interest in farming?
SCG: In my case, it is not a question of what, but rather, who. One of the reasons I grew an interest in farming was because of a man whom we call Mr Dladla. He made farming “cool” to me. . He was my neighbour. He taught me all I needed to know about farming. The fact that we grew our own vegetables at home, also inspired me. I grew up going door to door, every weekend and during school holidays to sell vegetables.
BD: Did you study agriculture or farming?
SCG: No I did not study agriculture. I am self-taught. I grew up watching Mr Dladla and my mom. I am a combination of my mom’s and Mr Dladla’s skill. Add to those, my love, passion and commitment. I have recently started attending agricultural courses and learnerships provided by the government.
SCG: I chose this path because I grew up doing it and doing it at the age of 12 years, It is really all I know. Watching my mentor do this, since I was a child, I knew if he could do it, then so can I. I knew I wanted to not just do it for myself and my family, but I wanted to turn it into a business. This has helped me because nowadays, it is not easy to find employment, especially for young people. I am happy to say, my business, though time consuming, helps me put food on the table.
BD: In your opinion, how can agriculture be made attractive to young people?
SCG: I think it can be made attractive by taking high schoolers on tours to farm arears. Putting young farmers on the forefront of farming might also help remove the stigma that it is for old people . During school exhibitions, allow farmers, especially young ones like myself, to speak to young people, after all, no one can speak to young people better than other young people.
BD: For young people who still believe they have no place in agriculture, what advice do you have for them?
SCG: If you are truly passionate about farming, don’t give up. Agriculture is a very broad field, it is not just about getting a shovel and getting dirty. There truly is something for everyone in this field.
BD: Land and farming go hand in hand. What is your opinion on the land expropriation issue?
SCG: In my opinion, the land expropriation issue could not have come at a better time. As black people, we die owning nothing, and contrary to popular belief, it is not because we are lazy, but because we have nothing to turn into anything.
SCG: The struggles I faced are lack of proper water for irrigation, funding, implements and land.
BD: How can the government assist young farmers?
SCG: The government can assist young farmers by providing them with enough land to farm. We are also in need of training and mentoring sessions. Lastly, capital. We have a huge problem of lack of financial aid, and I believe this problem is not unique to agriculture or farming, but across all fields. I believe that if the government could focus on farmers who already have started farming, this will cut a lot of costs.