How Two Women Are Bridging the Gap in South Africa’s Food System with Hydroponic Tunnels

Nestled along the rolling hills of Albert Falls in KwaZulu-Natal lies a powerhouse of innovation and hope. Led by two dedicated agricultural warriors, Nkanyiso Ngubane and Ntokozo Biyela, the rise of Dukathole Farm is something to behold. It’s an impactful and life-changing project that is bringing hope and nourishment to neighbouring communities. Using cutting-edge hydroponic tunnels, the pair are revolutionizing South Africa’s agriculture sector, one cherry tomato at a time.

Covering an impressive 50-hectares, this farm is not just redefining what is possible in the farming industry – it is reshaping opportunities, especially for disadvantaged women and youth. Albert Falls is a poor community, surrounded by rising unemployment. With every vegetable being grown, Ngubane and Biyela are sowing the seeds of change and reaping a harvest of possibility.

Established in 2014, Dukathole takes an innovative approach. Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, baby marrows and other fresh produce are grown in hydroponic tunnels. This allows for year-round production and a consistent supply to the market. This supports not only the local economy, but also contributes to improving food security in South Africa.

Getting to this point was not easy for the two women. When they first started out, Dukathole was run on a one-hectare privately-owned piece of land. But their hard work and entrepreneurial mindset led to a 50-hectare plot being leased to them by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

“We are proud of what we have achieved so far, but our journey has not been easy. We have had many challenges along the way, but we are persevering because this is our livelihood. Our families depend on us, so we live on the farm and start working early every day to make a difference,” said Ngubane.

Their challenges include access to capital, lack of working equipment, and even water and electricity shortages.

“We also only have one irrigation system and no proper fencing. And without funding, we are currently unable to change this, so we make do with what we have,” explained Biyela.

Despite this, the two remain positive and resilient. They have been through hard times before and they can get through it again. Their vision is simple – to help alleviate the country’s burden of food insecurity by becoming a leading supplier of nutritious produce at affordable prices.

With millions of people facing hunger and malnutrition, exacerbated by COVID-19 and reoccurring droughts, the need for sustainable agricultural practices and innovative solutions has never been more urgent. According to the 2021 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report, an estimated 20% of the population (or 11 million people) are food insecure.

For these entrepreneurs, they have accomplished what many only dream of.  They hope that in the years to come, they can make a meaningful impact in South Africa. They want to create jobs, help women and youth with skills development, and bring about much needed change.

Dukathole Farm is not just an ordinary farm. It’s a story of hope and a testament to the power of entrepreneurship in South Africa’s agriculture sector. They are proof that with passion, determination, and hard work, any dream can become a reality.