Has South Africa done enough to support women’s enterprises in South Africa? If you ask Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) provincial head Alex Qunta, the answer is no. And this lack of support is particularly true in the agricultural sector, he says.
Qunta was speaking at the Seda Western Cape International Women’s Day celebrations recently held in Herolds Bay. The theme, “Gender equality for a sustainable tomorrow”, was chosen to recognise the role that women play in economic and social development in the province.
During this event, women in agriculture and from various other business sectors across the province shared their experiences and challenges and celebrated their achievements.
Qunta said that little has been done to locate women who are doing remarkable things in business. Some don’t even know that services that are meant to help them in their business endeavours – such as Seda – exist.
“Although there’s a lot that we have done to assist women entrepreneurs, we are not helping them in a way that they would want to be helped, particularly in the agricultural sector. This is what I would like to change as a leader… such as the turnaround times in our planning.
“Women entrepreneurs have to be part of our planning so that we can start understanding their needs and how they would want to be helped. We therefore need to change our ways of doing things to meet their expectations.”
Qunta added that the country needs to move away from identifying small-scale farmers as “emerging” farmers and start supporting them as upcoming commercial farmers who can compete in national and global markets.
He said women play a significant role in the economy, but we need to give them the opportunity to lead. “The way I see it, women are more knowledgeable than we think. They need our support to realise their dreams instead of [us] telling them that this is what they need.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Attending the event and speaking to Food For Mzansi, Free Heim Eggs founder and manager Dorothy Joseph said that agriculture is challenging whether you are male or female. She felt that self-motivation and perseverance are key ingredients to business success.
Free Heim Eggs Primary Co-operative was registered back in 2013 already and is still specialising in chicken layers. The business produces about 900 eggs per day.
“There are many challenges, but as a woman, I don’t want to focus much on that. Such thinking can and will bring you down. You need to focus on the end goal and where you want to see yourself as a businesswoman,” she said.
One of the challenges she and her business currently face is land ownership. She currently rents land in the settlement of Friemersheim in the Garden Route on which to run her business.
“I can also point out that doing business in a small town means that we must navigate on roads that are not developed, making it difficult for us to move around. We also have to buy everything that we need, such as feed, packaging and chicken layers, from Cape Town because in and around our town they don’t sell the exact stock that we need,” said Joseph.
She added that there is still a need for women to join the agricultural industry, however, women face many challenges and some end up giving up along the way. These challenges need to be addressed.
“Despite these problems I really love my job, and producing eggs is almost my second nature. If I am not at work, I miss my chickens and when I arrive at work to the sheds, it is as if they have also missed me.”
Joseph advised women to look around them, to embrace every challenge and to find support in each other. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s always help around.
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