How Kwazi became “Cabbage King”

The shops he supplies call him the Cabbage King, says Kwazi Sibiya of Louwsberg, KwaZulu-Natal, smiling.

“It’s because no one else growing cabbages around here can compete with the quality and quantity of my cabbages,” he explains. “One day, when my farm has grown even further, I intend to write a book called The Cabbage Millionaire.”

Kwazi, who is just 20 years old, produced eight tons of vegetables at his latest harvest. His business, Auto Farming, is a beneficiary of an IDC/Land Bank programme in which Buhle intensively monitors select graduates, while the IDC/Land Bank provide capital.

His enrollment in this programme, and his previous training at Buhle, have transformed his production from negligible to a thriving enterprise that allows him to support his himself, his grandmother and two siblings. He employs two permanent workers and, in the harvesting and planting seasons, up to 20 people.

His markets have included the Louwsberg and Pongola Pick ‘n Pays and the local Spar, among other shops.

The IDC/Land Bank programme enabled him to expand his initial farm from just one hectare to five hectares of cabbages and to plant four hectares of grain, “because I could buy more irrigation pipes and the seeds, fertiliser and chemicals I needed,” Kwazi said.

He has now acquired a second farm with centre pivot irrigation covering about 100ha of arable land. He is preparing to start using this land by planting four hectares of vegetables on it before the end of May, “with Buhle’s help,” he says.

“Buhle has really tried to uplift me and has made a world of difference. Its farmer support officers always try to help, and they have visited me every month, enabling me to cope with pest outbreaks and any other problems.”

He studied Livestock Production at Buhle in 2016 but realised during the course that his greatest love was vegetable farming, so he completed a Vegetable Production course the same year. The next year he began leasing farming land in Pongola, KwaZulu-Natal, but had to abandon his crops mid-cycle when the landlord’s water supply was cut off due to a large and unpaid water bill.

He later moved to Louwsberg, acquiring the lease of the 11 hectares under the Land Bank programme – the first of his current parcels of land.

In his latest production cycle, he planted 5ha of vegetables and 4ha of grain.

“I would like also to grow dry beans and barley, and ultimately scale up to 50ha of crops and vegetables,” he says. “My ultimate aim is to acquire a Global Gap certificate so I can trade with local and international vegetable distribution centres.”

Kwazi fell in love with farming as a boy, taking enormous satisfaction in how his family, who were subsistence farmers, would turn a plot “where nothing but grass grew” into land producing healthy vegetables. “We would plough the land, prepare the soil, plant seedlings – and then we would see carrots and cabbages grow,” he remembered.

“Wow! That still makes me smile,” he remembers.