Out of adversity comes opportunity – great opportunity. And nobody knows this better than Nonhlanhla Joye.
Joye told her inspiring story on Wednesday evening at this year’s first Gauteng Women in Insurance (GWII) event, sponsored and hosted by Hollard at its Johannesburg main campus.
Just five years ago Joye was diagnosed with cancer, lost her job and was angry at life. Today she runs an award-winning farming collective in Pietermaritzburg and Durban, training others to farm vegetables, and to market them and run the business side of their ventures.
“Ma Joye’s story is very inspiring, with lots of challenges and lessons,” said GWII president Rianet Whitehead at the event.
Hollard and GWII are co-sponsoring training for 30 families through Joye’s Umgibe Farming Organics and Training Institute, which provides a platform to market vegetables grown by grassroots farmers in South Africa.
Hollard’s support for Umgibe dovetails with the company’s Better Futures business purpose: that what we do, and how we do it, enable more people to create and secure a better future.
Sick, and scared about how she would feed her children after she lost her job, Joye remembered she had “green fingers” and started growing spinach. It turned out well, but the neighbourhood chickens took a liking to it and it was soon all gone.
“Part of me wanted to kill those chickens,” said Joye. But, with neighbourhood relationships in mind, the chickens’ lives were saved. So was Joye’s, who puts her cancer remission down to eating the healthy vegetables she grows and finding her purpose in life.
She thought about her fowl problem and decided to create a hanging garden, so that her spinach would be out of beak reach. As she had no funds, she walked around the neighbourhood clearing it of plastic shopping bags and used those, and a wooden frame, to build her hanging garden. It worked.
“I am an implementer,” said Joye. “If you want something I will think about it, and do it.”
It was not long before growing vegetables led to Joye making her first R30 500. She expanded her repertoire, adding vegetables such as beetroot and lettuce that would help her manage her anaemia, caused by cancer treatment. Over time she added other, more exotic vegetables, and now she takes orders for her okra from Botswana.
Umgibe employs six people permanently and 18 casually, and is training four interns. Joye said those who the collective trains have to do without a grant from Umgibe for a year, after which successful farmers can receive financial help from Umgibe. This is to eliminate “dependency syndrome”, said Joye.
The training covers business skills such as costing, how to save, how to find a market for your product – and the importance of insuring a crop so that if it fails, the losses can be recouped.
Joye is a psychologist by training, and has received business training at the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science. Umgibe also operates 75 “growing systems” at schools, and a “seedpreneurs” programme through which schoolchildren are taught to germinate seeds, with 20% of their product going to their homes. Seedpreneurs aims to have 2 500 children on board by June.
“For me the talk was more than superb,” said Tinashe Nyamweda, the newest member of the GWII board, after Joye’s talk. Nyamweda and her husband farm vegetables north of Pretoria, with it being a side job for Nyamweda – she works for Aon South Africa.
“I could completely, completely relate,” she said. “It reminded me of the communities around me.”
Whitehead said GWII is very grateful to Hollard for “being with us from the beginning” and sponsoring GWII events every year. The GWII was founded in 2013 by eight businesswomen in the short-term insurance industry, to enhance the position of women in the short-term insurance industry in Gauteng.