Free State celebrates its top women in agriculture

Free State minister of agriculture and rural development William Bulwane (left) hosted a prestigious event where awards and prize money were handed to the province's stars among women in agriculture on Monday. (Top right) Nono Mohapi, winner in the Top Female Entrepreneur Commercial Category (bottom right) Cynthia Mokhamudi, winner in the Best Female Worker Category. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Free State minister of agriculture and rural development William Bulwane (left) hosted a prestigious event where awards and prize money were handed to the province's stars among women in agriculture on Monday. (Top right) Nono Mohapi, winner in the Top Female Entrepreneur Commercial Category (bottom right) Cynthia Mokhamudi, winner in the Best Female Worker Category. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Women from all spheres of agriculture stepped onto the stage this week as the Free State celebrated its most outstanding business women in the agri space. The province’s Female Entrepreneur Awards (FEA) took place on Monday, 30 August and saw subsistence, smallholder and commercial producers as well as processors and exporters being honoured with awards and well-earned prize money.

Event formalities recognised these women’s hard work, commitment and dedication, despite them facing some of the greatest challenges the sector has to offer.  

The awards ceremony was hosted by the provincial minister of agriculture and rural development, William Bulwane, who said that it was important to recognise women in the sector and to acknowledge the challenges they face.

Women are vulnerable and marginalised

Bulwane made it a point to highlight challenges such as access to credit, markets, inputs and recently improved technological implements. He also emphasised the importance of bridging the gender gap in land ownership.

“Women are part of the vulnerable groups and the marginalised who don’t have sufficient opportunities to have access to land. The question of land remains paramount to our people and society in general,” he said.  

In addressing some of these challenges, Bulwane said that as government they have developed and adopted the beneficiary selection and land allocation (BSLA) policy. It states that 50% of agricultural land that the state disposes of must go to women, 40% to youth and 10% to people living with disabilities.

Large and small celebrated

Taking the prize for best female subsistence producer in the Fezile Dabi district, was the face behind Phahamang Basadi Food Garden, Meriam Mokgatla.

In total, Mokgatla received R82 500 as prize money. She received both district and provincial recognition.

Meriam Mokgatla (middle) from Phahamang Basadi Food Garden accepting her award and prize money. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Mokgatla, who works alongside her partners, Hester Bekeer, Julia Maoke and Selina Lethopo, told Food For Mzansi that she was happy and grateful for the recognition as contributing women in agriculture, as well as the much-need prize money.

“With my winnings I’m going to buy some implements to improve my farming operation and to expand. The money is going to help us so much because it has not been easy for Phahamang Basadi Food Garden during the pandemic.”

Other winners in Mokgatla’s category were Khahliso Mohapi from the Thabo Mofutsanyane district, who received R32 500, Da Leen Terblanche from the Xhariep district, who received R7 500 and Mary Tholoana and the Martha Tsibane Garden from the Lejweleputswa District, who won R7 500 each.

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Best of the best

Delivering his keynote speech, head of department Dr Takisi Masiteng said that it was important for all participants in the agricultural industry to play their part and distribute food accordingly to fight food insecurity.

“Farming focuses on alleviating hunger and poverty, and (promoting) food security and nutrition. It is also about improving livelihoods and managing natural resources for the new generation to come.

“Furthermore, protecting the environment and allowing sustainable development in rural areas and bringing the economic and cultural functions together is important, and if we can focus on that, I am telling you, we will be the best of them all,” Masiteng said.

Winners in other categories were as follows:

Best worker: Mme Cynthia Mokhamudi. Prize money: R50 000

Top entrepreneur: smallholder

Provincial winner: Meadows Farm, Dikeledi Motsumi, R125 000

Provincial runner-up: DY Dairy, R32 000

Top entrepreneur: commercial

Provincial winner: Nono Mohapi, R125 000

Provincial runner-up: Nono Mohapi, R125 000

MEC’s special awards

For job creation: Dikeledi Motsume, R50 000

Different farming speciality (Game Reserve, Buffalos): Calla van Niekerk, R50 000

Different farming speciality (Rabbits): Da Leen Terblanche, R50 000

Different farming speciality (Horse, Riding, Export): Melissa Reynolds, R50 000

Other provinces

The Free State was the only province to date to be allowed to host this prestigious event since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most national awards programmes have been denied permission to host events due to safety concerns and budget constraints. However, Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the national department of agriculture, confirmed to Food For Mzansi that all provinces will have their chance to host their FEA ceremonies. He did not confirm whether this would happen this year.

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