A studentpreneur wants her business to eradicate hunger

Published On: 25 November 2021|

Ms Ntombizonke Mdletshe, a student at the University of Zululand, has an idea that she hopes will help relieve the devastating effects of poverty-related hunger. She founded Ivy’s Agro-processing where under-utilised crops are processed into highly nutritious food products that meet human nutritional needs.

Mdletshe (left) was a finalist in the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021, the awards ceremony of which was held in Kempton Park on 19 November. She was entered in the Innovative Business Ideas category.

In a record setting Intervarsity, the third since its inception in 2019, Mdletshe was among 16 women out of the 28 finalists. The competition had attracted a total 4168 from the entire university sector, out of which 150 qualified for entry. At the regional round of the competition, this number was whittled down to just 28.

“My business idea is innovative. Nobody has developed a powdered instant mash using my ingredients – orange sweet potatoes and pumpkin. I believe in bettering the lives of vulnerable people. In my plan, small-scale farmers will benefit.”

Originally from Empangeni in KwaZulu Natal, the Bachelor of Consumer Science (Extension and Rural development) student said she began by researching malnutrition in Africa.

Lack of Vitamin A

“I found that many children who come from impoverished communities in underdeveloped environments in Africa, lack Vitamin A due to their poor diet. And so, I was surprised to learn that this lack was prevalent even where there were highly nutritious planted crops with a high Vitamin A content. I began to realise that most of these crops, like sweet potatoes and pumpkin, were underutilised in both rural and urban areas.”

And so, the seed of the idea for her business: Ivy’s Agro-processing was planted. “What if I developed food products from these underutilised crops, both to promote their use and to decrease malnutrition? And that is what I am doing.” Her idea is for an affordable (R20 for a 32g bag), highly nutritious dry product (just add water) with a long shelf life. She has not secured SAHPRA (South African Health Products Regulatory Authority) approval yet.

She intends to source “easily available” ingredients from small scale farmers. Mdletshe said that since the aim of her business was to decrease malnutrition among children from poor backgrounds, she was hoping to work in collaboration with school nutrition feeding schemes.

“That is my target market. In the future, however, I hope to sell my product in retail outlets.”

She plans on using social media to market her product.

Charmain Naidoo is a contract writer for Universities South Africa