Over 50% of the country’s youth between the ages of 15-24 is currently unemployed. This is an indicator that a majority of young people are not in school, at a tertiary education or training institution. This is a survey that was conducted by the Ministry of Labour but was recently released. Kwakha Indvodza offers young men various services including life skills training, counselling and health services, challenging the root causes of poverty, gender inequality and poor health. The social Entrepreneurship and Income Generating Project is one of the projects running under KI which empowers young men with business skills, careers guidance and income generation activities. Some of these young men have gained short and long term paid employment and some have started micro businesses in a variety of fields including Landscaping, vegetable farming, visual artwork and poultry production to name a few to fully break the cycle of poverty and the vulnerabilities associated with it.
Comfort Mandlazi is a 19 year old young man From Lamgabhi one of the communities that KI works in. He is currently enrolled at Inyandza High School. He resides at Mhlabubovu in Lamgabhi with his grandmother as both his parents passed on. Comfort’s grandmother lived through vegetable farming on a piece of land they owned but it was still hard for them to make ends meet. Comfort then started looking for piece jobs from neighbours fixing their gardens decorating their backyards after school, on weekends and during school holidays. People fell in love with his work and recommended him to other people as well. His biggest breakthrough was when he got a tender at his School to do landscaping.
This tender managed to pay comfort a total of 10 000 Emalangeni which he used to procure land for his farming business. With the help from KI, Comfort drafted a business plan which its main focus was vegetable farming. He presented his plan during the business presentations initiatives and won first prize which was a seed capital loan to start his business. KI procured seedlings and fertilizers for him and he started growing his vegetables. During a site visit to his garden, comfort has already grown smooth spinach and lettuce. He has also grown cabbages in his grandmother’s garden. Comfort bought a kraal worth 200 Emalangeni where he gets his cow dung as his manure and he has a good source of water supply. When Comfort is at school, he is assisted by Mr Ndvwandwe a neighbour who also has a passion for agriculture.
Being a victim of poverty affected his performance at school a lot before he started his business because with the little money they made with his grandmother, he had to travel to school and make ends meet at home. First semester this year he got position 40 out of 50 and after he started his business he managed to get position 19 out of 50 in his second semester. He says he is now able to study because he is less stressed about how he is going to pay his school fees and help manage the household. Such improvement with his studies also made him eager to attend this year’s Smart Life Choices fair where he was able to engage with stakeholders like Farm Chemicals and Tshalaseeds Enterprise.
Through his engagement with Tshalaseeds at the Smart Life Choices Fair, Comfort got into a partnership with Tshalaseeds where the enterprise will give Comfort legume seeds to grow and sell for his own benefit but in return he should train other 20 young farmers in using their products.
Comfort is so passionate about agriculture and wants to mentor other young men in his community whose interests lie in agriculture. Thus far he supplies local markets and is looking at supplying big supermarkets with assistance from KI in terms of marketing linkages.