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Lonwabo Manqana

2021 Intern

"Without soil, there is no food, and without food, there is no life, hence we should take care of our soils," says Lonwabo Manqana, a WWF intern based in one of South Africa's major retailers, the SPAR Group’s head office in Durban.

He did not enjoy farming as a child, but he now spends every moment he gets either in the garden or improving his knowledge of cultivating. Lonwabo has an Honours degree in Soil Sciences and is doing a Master's degree of the same course at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

He tells us how his upbringing influenced his career path, and more:

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about food production, especially fresh, healthy foods. Growing up in rural areas taught me from an early age that crop cultivation plays a crucial role in supporting livelihoods and health. It creates job opportunities and contributes to eradicating poverty and malnutrition.

What inspired your choice of study?
While growing up, my mother produced crops for our family consumption and surplus to sell. Working in the garden was not a choice, rather a task that I had to perform. I did not enjoy it then, but my love for farming developed as I grew older and became good at it. That's how I decided to choose a career in agriculture.

What excites you about your internship?
My team at SPAR is awesome. They are all friendly, caring and supportive. I learnt a lot from them within the first month of being on the job. Big ups to my mentor! In my intern position as an Agricultural Advisor, my mentor makes sure I am always on the right track; she trusts me with my work and ensures that my input is empirical. I also get to travel which makes me fall more in love with my job.

What are your expectations of this internship?
I hope to be constantly learning. Since I only have a theoretical background, this internship is a great opportunity to polish my skills and come out a better person and much more employable than before. I also want to stretch my limits beyond my qualification-enabled skills concerning leadership and being in a diverse and multi-cultural workspace.

What contribution do you hope to make towards a future in which people and nature thrive?
It is all about sustainability. Every thought must be directed towards the sustainability of the environment – from the food we farm to the choices available to consumers. We must all think about the future – and not only for ourselves. If I could instil that mindset in everyone I interact with, and if they adhere to the concept, it would also make combating climate change much easy.

Who inspires you the most and why?
Career wise, it is Andile Siphesihle Ngcobo, one of the youngest and most successful farmers in South Africa. He manages a vegetable farming land of about 1 300 hectares. I wish to be able to do the same. He has been featured numerous times in the magazine Farmers Weekly.

Life wise, it is my father. He provided food and put my four siblings and me through school and university with only a security guard salary. I've learned the most from him: a sense of responsibility and that every action has a consequence attached to it.

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