Sihle Ndlovu - Number cruncher and Young Farmer Award winner

Growing up poor motivated Sihle Ndlovu to pursue a career in finance. In 2016, this now 35-year-old SAIPA member is on track to complete his PhD in Business Administration and recently received an #Agristars recognition award worth R50,000 from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, sponsored by the MTN Foundation.

"Finance professionals play an important role in every organisation. Working in a role which contributes to the success of an organisation will make you a respected business professional. As well as being a challenging and rewarding job, a career in finance offers opportunity and excellent financial reward."

Sihle Ndlovu's love for farming began early, when he was a youngster herding cattle in Impendle village in Mpumalanga. He also enjoyed working with numbers and helped his parents with their finances, working out profits and pricing on goods they were selling. "I then took an oath that I wanted to be a professional accountant," recalls Sihle, whose parents had always placed a high value on education and worked hard to ensure their children received quality instruction.

Sihle says he was honoured to receive the Young Farmer of the Year Award: "When I look at the calibre of other young farmers who participated in the event, I can conclude that the future of agriculture is in safe hands in South Africa." His farm, Virginia Farm, is located in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, in Boston, and spans 360 hectares. On it he farms livestock (cattle and goats) and crops (cabbages, potatoes and yellow maize). He also has an underground natural spring on the land and wants to begin bottling this natural spring water in the future.

Demonstrating good business sense, Sihle intends to invest his winnings back into his business, and offer a portion to his staff in thanks. "The responsibility of winning is huge because I need to work with young farmers to develop them and offer training as well," he says. "I have already prepared myself, as I serve on various boards for agriculture organisations and public entities to contribute significantly to the development of young farmers in South Africa."

Asked what has motivated him over the years, Sihle says his family.

"My parents have always motivated me. They taught me how to live in society. I work hard and believe in myself. I have learned how to balance life and am not afraid of failure."

His top tips for success: manage your finances effectively; negotiate everything; keep your expenses in check; network; invest by giving; get a good mentor; and polish up your soft skills.

Despite some difficulties of late, given the extreme drought conditions, Sihle believes the future of farming looks bright: "I am optimistic that the next billionaire in Africa will come from the farming industry."