Xoli reflects on the power of excellent marketing

Buhle farmer Nomxoliswa Makhabane (35) is going all-out to ensure that her farming business is a success.

Not only does she put in the hard legwork of farming; she also understands the importance of powerful marketing.

Xoli, as she is known for short, sells her spinach with a label she designed herself, to her local Pick ‘n Pay in Delmas, Mpumalanga. She produced her logo, shown on her label, while developing a business plan during her Vegetable Production course at Buhle in 2021.

“Think of your values and what your message is, then send that message out to the work in the form of a graphic,” she advises other new farmers. “You can express your message so much clearly than anyone else. And doing it yourself makes it fun!

“My logo is associated with everything I produce and motivates people to support my enterprise.”

The two feathers in her logo represent the importance of sharing ideas and how communication has advanced, reminding us how, centuries ago, writing was only possible using a quill pen, although we now use technology to convey our messages.

Elvis Nkosi, the Fresh Produce Manger at the Delmas Pick ‘n Pay, observes that Xoli’s spinach is of such a high quality that it flies off the shelves. “She is also very reliable, and always delivers on time,” he notes.

“We like to support emerging farmers by buying their produce.” 

Plants were given to people by God “to give us life and livelihoods”, notes Xoli. “My focus is on producing fresh, natural foods, so that I can hopefully feed the nation – and the world!

“There is a reason that each of us is here on earth and, to put it in a simple way, my calling is to help others be the best versions of themselves. Farming is a way to give back to society.”

Xoli graduated from our Vegetable Production course in November 2021 – just seven months before this story was written – then began farming on land at a community centre in Delmas, Mpumalanga, where there was a vacant tunnel. She grows Swiss chard in the 10m by 30m structure.

Her business, InkosazanaGro, has three full-time employees and recently began employing another 12 to clear four more hectares of land, which she will plant soon.

She bubbles over with an infectious enthusiasm when she talks about agriculture.

“If you love farming as I do, don’t hesitate – just go for it,” she advises other young people. “However, you should be prepared for some legwork.”

Birds-eye chilli will be her summer crop. “It’s good for health, and there is a shortage in the market, as I discovered through my research when I was training.”

Farming is a multi-faceted career, requiring the willingness to gain many new areas of expertise, notes, Xoli, who is now working to ensure that her production complies with GAP certification. This will enable her to extend her sales by suppling outlets that require the standards of production required for exports.

Her greatest challenge is to find the capital necessary for a larger irrigation system, necessary for extending her area under production. “I know I will find the funding I need,” she says.

Xoli studied psychology at university years ago, then worked as a human resources officer for a construction company. “When Covid-19 struck and I was stuck at home, I became introspective. I came to the realisation I really want others to lead a full life, which starts with healthy food. This gives us the strength and energy to do as much as we can with our time. It makes our minds clear, not foggy, and we become more creative.”

“Now, there is nowhere I’d rather be than farming. If you want to understand and get closer to God, this is the best way.

“Farming brings together my psychological insights, my interest in food, and my interest in the reason for being alive.”


Introducing Buhle

There are many thousands of new farmers in South Africa needing skills, guidance and capital to grow a viable farming business. Buhle Farmers’ Academy is a non-profit organisation that trains, mentors and supports these new farmers.

We offer holistic courses covering all the farming and management skills these farmers need (see Programme section for more details), and trainees come from all over the country to learn at our campus near Delmas, Mpumalanga. Our farmer support offices mentor as many of our graduates as possible, and we manage several programme providing financial support to some of our most promising alumni.

Since we opened our doors in the year 2000 we have grown from strength to strength, and have now trained over 6 000 emerging farmers - half of them women and 60% of them youth - in vegetable, crops, poultry and livestock production, and mixed farming. Even better, about 12 000 jobs have been created due to Buhle, based on the assumption that for every new farmer established, at least one additional job is created.

Our Mission

Buhle’s mission is train and support aspiring farmers from across South Africa to run farming businesses that are both profitable and sustainable. The effect is that we are helping to alleviate poverty by creating jobs, while ensuring food security.

Over the years, Buhle has developed a best-practice model that could help make a huge difference in helping to transform agriculture in South Africa.

In the rural and poorest areas of our country, the biggest employers are government, agriculture and mining. Most of these employers are unlikely to radically increase their take-up of employees. Our biggest hope lies in developing a culture of entrepreneurship, and agriculture is one of the key sectors for doing so.

Universities and training colleges are expensive and have strict academic entrance criteria, which many aspiring farmers cannot fulfil. They need accessible, practical training with the follow-up coaching and support that enables them to overcome the myriad, unpredictable challenges of agriculture.

Buhle fulfils these needs.

Our History
In the years after 1994 – when South Africa became a democracy – our newspapers were peppered with stories of how farming ventures fail after being handed over to black farmers. It became clear that transferring land was simply not enough. Emerging farmers also needed farming skills and ongoing mentorship.

A group of concerned citizens with agricultural expertise decided to address this problem. In the year 2000, they got together to form the Food Health Hope Foundation and, under its auspices, Buhle – meaning “It is good” – was established.

Our founding partner was Monsanto, now Bayer, who donated to us the fertile land that became our training farm and gave us the start-up capital we needed. We developed our first curriculum in conjunction with Tshwane University of Technology, focusing on vegetable production as it has a short production cycle. Two years later, we added poultry, livestock and crop production courses.

In 2004, we registered the Buhle Farmers’ Academy as an NPO in order to continue our fundraising efforts. We have grown from strength to strength over the years. From our first cohort of 57 students in the year 2000, we trained over 500 in 2018, and we have now trained over 6 000 farmers over the years.

Our heartfelt thanks go to every one of our funding partners. With your backing and partnership, we are indeed fulfilling our mission: to transform dreams into reality for many thousands of aspiring farmers.

Our Approach

Buhle has developed a best-practice model for training aspiring farmers, which includes:

  • A sound theoretical knowledge base in agricultural technology
  • Competency based practical skills training
  • Training in farm business management
  • Training in appropriate life skills
  • Effective follow-up and support services.

Our People

Our staff are the people who make it all happen, and behind us is the highest authority of our organisation, the Board of Trustees of the Food Health Hope Foundation.

The Board oversees our vision, mission and activities. Motivated entirely by their sense of philanthropy, they donate their time, knowledge, experience and prestige to help grow and guide the Buhle Farmers’ Academy.

A picture of our staff on each campus is below, and underneath that is a list of our board of trustees.


Our Partners

Our heartfelt thanks go to every one of our partners, who make our work possible: