Published On: Mon, Sep 10th, 2018

Young women making a mark in South Africa farming sector 

Dimakatso “Nono” Sekhoto

Dimakatso “Nono” Sekhoto

JOHANNESBURG – AS the land reform debate raging in South Africa, some young farmers are making a mark in the agricultural sector and shattering the myth that the redistribution would kill commercial farming.

One such farmer is Dimakatso “Nono” Sekhoto whose success is inspiring in that she only had a background in the financial services sector.

After completing a BCom. in Financial Accounting and spending seven years in the industry, Sekhoto changed track by joining her father in co-managing the family’s 2 100ha commercial farm.

Sekhoto said although they had financial support from government, they did not have a good mentor or a suitable business plan.

This led to her reaching out to the greater agricultural industry to access appropriate support.

“I joined the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA), an association assisting black farmers,” she said.

“It was still a new organisation then, with no tangible assistance for members. I was an active member and eventually was invited to join the leadership as the national AFASA Youth Chairperson. This helped me realise that the challenges I faced on the farm were the same as those of other young farmers,” Sekhoto said.

Sekhoto’s work at AFASA has dovetailed with the business she developed, called GrowthShoot, which aims to empower youth in agriculture and in 2017, following the liquidation of her family’s farming business, she began running it on a fulltime basis.

“GrowthShoot aims to link young farmers up with opportunities such as access to markets, finance and training, with the help of its agribusiness partners whom I forged relationships with through my
position at AFASA as well as via the Facebook group that I set up,” she added.

As part of her efforts, she established the Annual AFASA Young Farmers Summit, now in its third year, which enables young farmers to gather with stakeholders and discuss the issues they face as well as how these can be improved.

“This year, we embarked on a provincial road show to prove to stakeholders that many youth are interested in agriculture. I was able to gather proof dispelling the myth that youth don’t want to farm,” Sekhoto said in an interview.

She aims to establish a conglomerate in the agricultural industry by creating new markets and innovative ways of  increasing youth participation in farming.

Sekhoto is one of five South Africans celebrated by financial firm, Metropolitan, for making an impact in agriculture.

Metropolitan’s #WeSeeYou campaign celebrates the stories of ordinary people who have achieved success thanks to the encouragement and assistance they have received.

The campaign also empowers financial services consumers to attain similar successes in their own lives.

Among other inspirational up-and-coming farmers is 24-year-old Mbalentle Sipingane, a poultry farmer crackling into a growing local market with an insatiable appetite for eggs.

Sipingane has sold 31 857 eggs with an income of R1,4 million.

The project employs six people.

However, lack of funding is preventing expansion of the business.

“I have personally applied for funding without success because they say I am too young, inexperienced. Our farm is too small so they will only fund bigger or commercial farmers,” Sipingane said.

Sipingane recently joined 100 young farmers  at the AFASA summit to explore ways to assist them access markets and funding.

“ I was able to network with other young farmers who have the same goals. I hope I will I gain access to markets and many more,” Sipingane said.

Some organisations globally have invited Sekhotho to mentor youth involved in agriculture.

“It has been such a humbling experience to have people wanting to listen to me and get advice from me on the things I do on a daily basis. I am thrilled to see and hear that so many people are inspired by my work,” she said.

Her many trips have enabled her to connect her with people from places she never even imagined going to.

She has met most Pope Francis.

“Who would’ve thought that all this would happen when I left my job in finance! People thought I was crazy,” said Sekhoto.

AFASA said the success of the young female farmers represented the passion and aspirations of hundreds of young people that can achieve a lot with the right support.

“This is an example, a sign that there are more young people out there passionate about agriculture who just need an opportunity so that they showcase what there have studied or what they have experienced when they are with their parents who are farmers,” said Malapane Thamaga, Manager at AFASA.
– CAJ News

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