As a passionate educator, EIT’s Dean, Dr Steve Mackay, never underestimates the benefits of a good quality education. When a career path and an individual are aligned he knows the sky is the limit. Engineering and technology are the focus of EIT, but so too are those who yearn to work in a field of endeavour that inspires and drives them every day.
This is the story of a young South African man who, with has his heart set on farming, is achieving his dream. Asanda Mnguni is the one with the vision, but he is being supported by his indomitable mother, Nomsa (Gloria) Mkhwanazi, a gifted farmer, Ms Gitti Kraupner, and the Engineering Institute of Technology.
Asanda is 21 years old and studying away from home, but during college holidays he lives with Gloria, a single parent, a house keeper and part-time carer of the frail and elderly. They live at the foot of the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains, in Himeville - a tiny village near Underberg. Whilst the region is known for tourism, it is also known for its farming communities.
Himeville also happens to be where Steve Mackay’s wife grew up. Asanda explains, “Steve and Edwina started supporting my mother when I was still a child because of our poor living conditions. The year was 2006, and my mother was unemployed at the time. We have been receiving their support ever since.”
Building an agricultural future
Asanda is in his third year of a Diploma of Agricultural Management at Cedara Agricultural College. He says his future in agriculture looks bright because he is receiving support from local commercial farmers who are allowing him to gain practical experience on their farms and it is helping him gain the necessary skills needed within the farming sector.
“Growing up in a farming community made me consider agriculture as a possible career choice. I may be one of the first black farmers within my community once I have completed my studies,” Asanda says proudly.
During South Africa’s Covd-19 lock-down, Asanda has been working on an Aquaponics project on Gitti Kraupner’s farm in Himeville. The Aquaponics project is a new addition to the farm – the farm typically specializes in cattle breeding.
Aquaponics is a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish, or other aquatic creatures, supplies the nutrients for plants grown hydroponically (without soil) and in its turn purifies the water.
In drought prone regions many South African farmers are beginning to view aquaponics as a viable farming alternative and it is being considered a means to producing food for impoverished communities. Asanda notes that an aquaponic ‘farm’ can be started in the smallest of backyards and retailers have the necessary equipment for a start-up.
About the project he is involved with, Asanda explains, “We have constructed the whole aquaponic system from scratch. Advantages of this system include reduced water wastage, increased production per square meter and an organic way to produce food when compared with traditional farming methods. This approach will help feed the growing population and meet the future demand for food.”
Asanda is passionate about the future of agriculture in South Africa and wants to see a turn-around in the economy where 29% of South Africa’s population are unemployed.
Asanda concludes, “In the next 5 to 10 years I really want to see myself on my own farm implementing all the knowledge I have learned while studying, and the skills I’ve obtained from farm experiences. I really hope to inspire the youth - not to think of agriculture as a rudimentary job in society, but to understand the importance of farming, especially in rural areas where most of the youth can grow their own wealth without having to search for it in cities where employment can be a challenge.”
All of us at EIT are very proud of Asanda. He is dedicated to his studies and has taken advantage of the practical farming experiences offered to him.
Steve Mackay remains in awe of EIT students and alumni who draw on their education and entrepreneurial skill to support their communities. It is this sense of social responsibility which inspires EIT to do the same.
It was clear that all Asanda needed - to make his way in the world - was determination, an opportunity to demonstrate and hone his growing skill, and a little support. We wish him well as he works towards completing his qualification and becoming a fully-fledged farmer in South Africa.