Mthashana Agribusiness Incubator (MAI)
Out of a need of a practicum farm serving the campus, Principal Nhlanhla Dimba aptly conceptualized the forward-looking Mthashana Agribusiness Incubator (MAI) currently implemented at the Emandleni campus. Partners Kohwa Holdings and Durban University of Technology promptly came on board bringing industry expertise, farming equipment, materials, and business acumen in their arsenal.
The farm spans over 7 hectares within the Emandleni campus and provides practical farming experience to learnership students and NCV students from different programs on a daily basis. Not only is the farm a marvel for practicals but it has grown to employ at least 10 graduates permanently, contracted 17 unemployed graduates and has successfully placed 13 Emandleni graduates at other farms around KZN.
Flourishing crops on the farm include cabbages spinach, chilies, butternut, baby marrow, baby gem squash, yellow patty pan, green patty pan and green beans of which have been featured on the shelves of major retailers such as Kloof Super Spar. A feat Mr Dimba cannot be more prouder of.
They say no good deed goes unpunished and needless to say that the project has been met with some challenges. Running such an initiative takes effort and a considerable amount of resources as stated by Mr Mandla Merile. Although there are endeavours to secure donors, in the current climate, the project has suffered immensely with funding. As such, the upkeep of the farm and its’ personnel has been affected. Much acknowledgment goes to the extra effort put in by campus manager, Mr Thulasizwe Zuma, who has kept operations running like a well-oiled machine in the midst of uncertainty.
With that said, those at the helm are not deterred but inspired to keep innovating to address issues of skills shortage, youth employment and food security. There is a desire to acquire more land in order to be considered a commercial farm as this would mean a bigger stake in the market and most importantly – accelerated advancement of Mthashana students as well as the lecturers in the field.
The MAI Project has proved, without a doubt, that students in any field require and will prosper if they are exposed to the best of both worlds – training & practical sessions combined with real workplace experience. In just 3 years, this objective has been met and the future is packed full of promise.
Enjoy a visual tour of the MAI success story below.