Agritourism unlocks economic potential in rural areas, providing visitors with a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of farming while creating much-needed jobs. Along the KZN South Coast, where the Agri-CULTURE Tours are proving a successful initiative, it’s the women who are leading in this particular field.
“Promoting tourism in the hinterland region while supporting our women tourism operators is a major drive for us and we’re excited to shine a spotlight on these three exceptional women,” said Phelisa Mangcu, CEO of South Coast Tourism and Investment Enterprise (SCTIE). “By sharing their stories this Women’s Day, we hope to inspire others to find opportunities in the agritourism industry and develop this incredibly worthwhile sector along the KZN South Coast.”
Meet Busisiwe Lubanya, Silindile Zondi and Bongi Lushaba, co-founders of BBS Farm in Southport
Named after its three women founders – Busisiwe Lubanya, Bongi Lushaba and Slindile Zondi – BBS Farm was first established as a subsistence farm but quickly grew in popularity, with the women finding a niche market in commercial produce.
The trio decided to start their own enterprise after finding themselves with the right certifications, but without employment. Bongi recalls meeting Busisiwe and Slindile at a co-operative summit where the three of them were elected onto the committee as secretary, chairperson and treasurer respectively.
“The three of us were unemployed graduates so we decided to work together, helping other co-operatives and also training further in the industry,” recalled Bongi. “We then decided to register our farm as the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was running a programme calling for such proposals, and we were lucky.”
“I studied Plant Production in Agriculture at MUT (Mangosuthu University of Technology) and, as an unemployed graduate in 2004, I decided to get into a cooperative movement,” explained Silindile. “In 2005 I met Bongi and Busi and we decided to put our experience and knowledge to good use.”
After securing land through the department, and a loan through Ithala Bank, the team embarked on their agricultural journey.
“We decided to create tunnels for farming and identified produce that is not common or easily sourced to create more market demand,” continued Busisiwe. “We started with our Heritage tomatoes which come in a variety of red, green, yellow, orange and maroon, which we then packaged differently, mixing in cherry tomatoes. People were very keen on this.”
In terms of their roles, Busi focuses on production, Slindile deals with finance, while Bongi is in charge of labour relations. The success of their venture gained attention, with the department bringing students to learn more about the tunnel and irrigation system, and how the team developed their own seeds. Busisiwe also acknowledged the local municipality and SCTIE for providing training that allowed them to develop into an agritourism business.
“Agritourism is not an easy industry and we’re just getting started, but our farming is unique and that attracts visitors,” she explained. “For women looking to get into agriculture, I’d suggest looking for something different, something that hasn’t been done already. It’s hard work, it takes dedication, time and patience, but if you put in the work, you can make a difference.”
Slindile agreed, stating: “Agriculture is male- and white-dominated industry and it was a big challenge just getting into the market, but we were able to gain trust through our persistence, passion and perseverance. We established ourselves as well-known female farmers on the South Coast.”
Commenting on the shift into agritourism, Silindile said the farming environment is the best way to de-stress and get up close to nature: “I would advise women to get into farming and agritourism as this industry plays a massive part in increasing our economy. As women, we need to do our part to empower our country through the economy.”
However, Bongi said entering the marketplace as a woman is still challenging: “I think we need to overcome this challenge of breaking into the marketplace by creating an association representing women in agriculture so we can speak with one voice.”
She said the agritourism industry had assisted them greatly in achieving further exposure, with many people visiting the farm to learn more about operations, either for future farming endeavours or out of interest.
“My advice to women is to keep pushing, to not focus on the money but rather improving the business. Then everything will fall into place,” she added.
BBS Farm offers:
• Farm tours showcasing the organically-grown produce; a tour of the hydroponic system that waters the world-class tomato selection (including the Heritage tomato!); and a macadamia tour of this burgeoning production.
• Fishing for carp, tilapia and bass at the dam.
• Food and a cup of coffee while enjoying some great views.
Operating hours: Tours at 10am to 10.45am, and 1pm to 1.45pm weekdays; 11am to 11.45am, and 12.45pm to 1.30pm on weekends.
Contact details: 079 568 1815, email email@example.com or find ‘BBS Farm’ on Facebook.
Meet sisters Nelly and Nolwazi Zama, co-founders of Ubumbano Farm in Amandawe
The Zama family started this agricultural co-operative in 2017 on a smallholding in Amandawe as a mixed farming venture. They produced choice-grade crops which gained local consumer attention, prompting the shift to commercial farming with the addition of a retail sector as well.
“The smallholding has always been owned by our dad and we all got involved as we grew up,” explained Nelly. “We currently have sugar cane, seasonal vegetables, macadamia nuts and bananas growing on the farm, running under a family-owned business.”
SCTIE identified the farm as an ideal addition to the Agri-CULTURE Tours, which has proved a success for tourism and the Zama family.
“We have been fortunate enough to engage with individuals who are very interested in the product and are willing to assist,” continued Nelly. “Agritourism is an educational and fun experience for many and the KZN South Coast is fortunate in that it is made up of a farming community, from small-scale to commercial. The area is already a worldwide tourist attraction, now with agritourism, there’s an added drawcard for tourists – a different take on the tourism sector.”
Nolwazi agreed, adding: “Our offering is different as we don’t only have the crop, we also make products from some of our produce, including chilli jam. We are excited to announce that our chilli jam is now stocked in one of the South Coast’s gems, Fifi Fish Shop.”
Sharing her advice for women looking to get into the industry, Nelly said: “Now is the time! Tourists want to hear you share your story as a farmer. Becoming a member with the South Coast Tourism and investment Enterprise is a great step in the right direction as you will receive the correct training and the advice. Working long hours and getting your products in markets requires patience and effort, but it is all worth it in the end.”
Nolwazi added: “The agriculture and tourism industries are very important in our communities. We now have women who farm vegetables like yams and sweet potatoes, and who sell chickens to our communities and shops. My advice is to start small-scale and grow your produce as the demand grows. Through tourism, you can share your experience with people who are interested in seeing your products before they are packed – this is a great opportunity to educate the public.”
Ubumbano Farm offers:
· Farm tours to witness growing techniques, harvesting and a chance to sample fresh produce.
· Home-made eats from the farm stall and a picnic under the trees.
· Shopping at Ubumbano Farm Stall which stocks freshly-made macadamia nut and rocket pesto, macadamia nut biscuits and brittle, baked mielie loaf and steamed mielie bread. There’s also locally-manufactured arts, crafts and other memorabilia in the Curio Shop.
Operating hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8.30am to 4pm. Bookings essential.
Contact details: 0715562596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Leigh Wichmann, co-founder of Mpenjati Coffee in Munster
Leigh and Des Wichmann started farming coffee almost five years ago at their Jericho Farm in Munster with the processing performed at their Larkfield Farm. The couple has started brewing some of the region’s best coffee blends with visitors welcome to experience the process from plant to cup.
“This has been my husband’s dream for a while but I was always too nervous to branch out until he convinced me it was the right time!” explained Leigh. “We did the crazy thing of opening in the December season but I just loved the busyness of it all.”
She said that balancing the business demands with that of the family can be tricky, but it’s worth all those long hours of baking and preparation.
“I love that we get to show everyone what we actually do, and I think it is so important to understand the process that goes into every cup of coffee, understanding how you get that perfect cup. We have also been able to open a small farm stall supporting numerous other small businesses along the KZN South Coast, many of which are women-owned.”
Mpenjati Coffee offers:
· Delicious food and a cup of locally brewed coffee at the café.
· A tour of the farm to view the pulping, drying, hulling, separating, grading and roasting of the coffee.
Operating hours: 8am to 4pm (Monday to Sunday) every day. The farm tour is limited to four people and pre-booking is essential.
Contact details: Des Wichmann 083 440 4431, www.mpenjaticoffee.co.za.
The KZN South Coast is an accessible, year-round leisure destination that accommodates families, adventure travellers, business visitors and keen investors. SCTIE will continue to leverage this to achieve its goal in positioning the KZN South Coast as KZN’s leading regional tourism and investment destination. The organisation facilitates key stakeholder meetings, eliminate barriers, and increases access to incentives that support local and international investment.
To find out more about the Agri-CULTURE Tours and other KZN South Coast tourism offerings, download the free ‘Explore KZN South Coast’ app from Google Play and Apple stores; visit the ‘South Coast Tourism’ on Facebook or YouTube; @infosouthcoast on Twitter or Instagram; ‘Info Ugu South Coast Tourism’ on LinkedIn; www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za to check out the Events Calendar, the KZN South Coast Meeting Planner Guide and more!
To access previous USCT press releases, visit: https://www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za/category/press-release/