Ms Linda Olga Nghatsane, Woman of the year 2007

Ms Linda Olga Nghatsane is a public health practitioner who turned farmer three years ago and is today running a broiler chicken production with capacity of 25,000 chickens, producing oyster mushrooms, strawberries and a variety of vegetables in a R2 million turnover per annum business near Nelspruit in Mpumalanga.  Ms Nghatsane, whose parents are farmers, bought the 10 hectare farm De Hoop in Crocodile Gorge Conservancy near Nelspruit in 2004. The land was overgrown with Lowveld vegetation. Most of the bush clearing was done by hand. There was no infrastructure on the farm, i.e., no house, electricity, water and not even a road leading to the piece of land which she has since turned into a flourishing farm.

Ms Nghatsane has not only installed infrastructure but is making all the bricks for the construction work on the farm. She started off in 2004 with a broiler chicken house with a capacity of 1,000. The broiler production project was expanded by 3 more houses with a capacity of 9,000 chickens (i.e. each housing 3,000); thus increasing her farm capacity from 1,000 to 10,000 chickens within a period of 10 months using own funds.

Three additional poultry houses were built between July 2006 and April 2007 with a capacity of 5,000 each, thus increasing the broiler chicken capacity to 25,000 chickens within 36 months.

There is one structure for cultivating oyster mushrooms and two shade-net structures (which were made from shade-net off-cuts sewn by hand) under which the vegetables are planted. The farm has no dwelling house and Ms Nghatsane and her husband has on many occasions slept in the office building when farming demands long hours and there was no time to go home in town. Their thinking has been funds first for essentials and luxuries later.

They bought the farm without Government assistance in a commercial transaction. The developments were done with own funds except for the additional two broiler chicken houses, fencing and an additional borehole thanks to a grant obtained from the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Agriculture and Land Administration.

The idea of farming started, while Ms Nghatsane was training communities, especially women, on nutrition-related subjects. These women often challenged her saying that in spite of the fact that they have acquired useful knowledge on good nutritional practices, they are continually faced with the challenge of poverty and unemployment. It was then that she thought of the idea of combining agriculture and health in an effort to demonstrate that it is possible to combat malnutrition in some way. She thought she could make it work because of her public health background which could be integrated with practical agriculture and experience acquired over the years on several African countries.

Her successful farming includes involvement in community development work where she is conducting training on planting vegetables in bags, poultry and oyster mushroom production as well as care and support for orphans and vulnerable children.

Ms Nghatsane is the chairperson of the Nelspruit Agricultural Development Committee. She sometimes features on the local radio, Ligwalagwala FM where she talks to the community in general about her field as well as motivating women to fight poverty by getting involved in agriculture and creating jobs for others.

Ms Nghatsane lobbied the private sector and government to partner her to implement a pilot project in a nearby rural school to motivate the youth to take interest in agriculture.

She is a self-driven person who does not believe in hand-outs but in hard work. Ms Nghatsane uses the example of how she has turned an open land in the middle of nowhere into an oasis to create jobs as well as feeding her community.


 

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