In our Jan/Feb 2017 issue, we introduced you to Nonhlanhla Joye, founder and director of Umgibe Farming Organics and Training Institute, and winner of the Impact2 Award semi-finals in Johannesburg in November last year for which ELLE formed part of the judging panel. The Impact2 Award is a global initiative that celebrates female social entrepreneurship. It is a search for one woman’s vision, through her business and product, with an emphasis on viability and social impact.
The semi-finals, the first round of the competition, is usually held in 10-15 countries around the world, including the USA, Hong Kong, France, Spain and Chile. One local start-up is chosen as the winner in each region, and goes on to represent each participating country in the global finale at the Impact2 World Forum in Paris. After winning the semi-finals Nonhlanhla Joye from KwaZulu-Natal was chosen to represent South Africa at this global finale on Thursday 30 March.
Amazingly, out of nine participating countries at the Impact2 World Forum, Nonhlanhla won. On winning, Nonhlanhla says, “it was an amazing feeling and I still cannot believe that Umgibe was awarded this prestigious prize. I feel grateful to God because all the women that were there had the most wonderful projects.”
Nonhlanhla’s business, Umgibe, is more than just a scalable business. It is a means to empower and do away with dependency, much like it did for Nonhlanhla who, two years ago as the sole breadwinner of her household, needed to find a way to put food on the table after she was unable to work due to a cancer diagnosis. She began to grow her own vegetables, but unfortunately, her neighbour’s chickens got to them before she could.
So she devised a Frugal Climate Smart system to grow organic vegetables that is raised approximately 80 cm off the ground. Using recycled plastic bags attached to a recycled plastic structure, the system requires less water, expands space, and is portable. Specifically designed for urban farmers, the system is eco-friendly, using organic pesticides and compost for plant nutrients.
Umgibe now works with 38 cooperatives and provides training & equipment, as well as market access through restaurant chains and government departments
Nonhlanhla is undoubtedly a role model to South Africans, particularly to women, who can relate to her against-all-odds story. She hopes that her work will serve as an example to women. “I would like teach women that the past has already been written, that they have the power to write the future based on who they are and what they do now,” she says. “There is no better person to rely on than yourself. I learnt that the hard way. Make sure the work that you choose to do is what you feel passionate about; success will follow.”
For a small business owner, Nonhlanhla says winning the overall award has given her confidence that as a social entrepreneur she is heading in the right direction. “It also means a lot of exposure to the world and investor opportunities,” she says. Now that she’s won, she aims to increase awareness opportunities to combat climate change by using the Umgibe system as a tool for bottom of the pyramid households, refugees, grassroot farmers in Africa, and the world.
And what’s next for Umgibe? Nonhlanhla will be scaling up her business, starting in Africa, and continuing to share her work with government agencies, schools, churches and communities. “I am hoping to increase the production of Umgibe Frugal Systems and to reach 3000 households by mid 2018,” she says.
Well done to this inspiring woman.