It is a sunny day and business as usual at the Nyadzanga Nursery and General Trade situated in Vondwe just outside Thohoyandou as the owner, Mphedziseni Mulovhedzi, 71, is seated on one of the benches inside the yard while her all female team of workers is busy tending to plants around the nursery. Mulovhedzi recently won the Ministerial Special Award last month in the category of Disabled Female Entrepreneur (FEA) 2018 by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
Just by looking at the employees, one can easily conclude that Mulovhedzi has taught them well because they all know their roles in terms of the day-to-day operation of the nursery.
The nursery looks all neat if not too perfect and the plants are as green as ever serving as a reminder to everyone that the spring season is almost around the corner. Customers can also be seen entering and leaving the yard after buying produce from the nursery.
One of the customers purchases the small plants and it becomes evident that he has a small garden at his home. The man uses the services of this nursery to grow some vegetables in his garden and as he delightfully leaves the nursery he utters this to the female helping him, “Ndo livhuwa” in Tshivenda meaning thank you. At the very same time, the owner watches the whole encounter closely.
Be that as it may seem, Mulovhedzi comes across as a strict and committed woman who only wants things to be done in an exceptional manner as she is quick to remind one of the ladies to fetch more water for the plants since the watering is underway. It is quite evident that she does not tolerate sloppiness.
“I started the nursery in 2007 using a plot of my own. I used my bare hands to clear up the thick bushes and trees to turn the plot into this agricultural Eden,” she says. Currently she produces vegetables which include cabbage, onion, tomato, green pepper and beetroot.
These are sold to the community including schools and social groups around rural Vondwe, north east of Thohoyandou where the nursery is based.
Mulovhedzi might have emerged as both provincial and national winner in her category, but challenges surrounding the operation are inevitable. The winter season make the crops inadaptable to the cold making the nursery difficult in terms of maintenance.
Moreover, insects tend to destroy the plants now and again placing a huge burden on the owner and the workers to insecticide the plants to ensure progress in the nursery.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana said in his budget vote speech in parliament earlier this year that small-scale farmers have a critical role to play in the economy.
However lack of funding is still a problem to farmers like Mphedziseni whose greatest wish is to grow her business even further.
“I wish to get more funds so that I can extend the nursery into a huge operation. This plot that I am using is very small and it does not satisfy me. I wish it could be extended so that I can create more jobs as a way of trying to alleviate poverty and hunger,” she says.
The prestigious awards ceremony which was held in the Eastern Cape last month also honoured females such as Nosiphiwo Makhapela and Matshidiso Portia Mngomezulu with the Minister’s special award for young female entrepreneur and Top Entrepreneur award in the Processing category respectively.
Mngomezulu took the spotlight twice during the event as she was also announced as the overall winner based on the highest scoring points and cross cutting criteria for entrepreneur.
Providing jobs in an area afflicted by a huge lack of economic opportunities delights Mulovhedzi since she gets to empower women from the community through employment and paying them so that they can sustain their lives makes her even happier.
Ntshavheni Veronica Mauda, 42, from Vondwe is amongst the 13 women working at the nursery after failing to complete her Human Resource Management studies due to a lack of funds.
“My life has changed for the better ever since I started working here because I am able to have my own money instead of being dependent on others”.
Another employee Azwitamisi Lillian Makungo from Ha-Makhuvha village joined nursery after struggling for years working as a volunteer at an orphanage.
“In the next five years to come, I would like to see myself opening my own nursery using the skills that I would have acquired from working here”.
Despite becoming partially-sighted after an injury that saw her right eye becoming completely blind as a young girl in Standard 3, that did not stop Mulovhedzi from becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, she sees her disability as a blessing.
“I am thankful that even though I see with one eye, I am still able to continue working using my other eye because my disability does not disturb me in any way; it only encourages me to work even harder”.
Before we wrap up the interview, I ask her what she would like to say to other people living with disabilities and the hard working farmer had this to say: “A disability is not a curse and living with one does not mean that you are not loved by God and people. What matters is the worth you see in yourself. Most importantly, work, because there is nothing wrong with you”.
– Mukurukuru Media