The cultivating of plants and livestock is no small feat. For that you require a diverse set of skills, and the right people and mentorship in your corner.
So, then who do you turn to for support? Mentors and advisors of course. People who can help you weather challenges and achieve your agricultural goals.
The 2020 Agricultural Research Council (ARC) national mentor of the year, Matshidiso Mooketsi, knows a thing or two about mentoring the young minds of agriculture. The North West farmer has been passing on her knowledge and expertise to mentees for more than ten years now.
The 51-year-old farmer is well recognised in the industry for her exceptional leadership skills. She has made a particular contribution to building capacity and skills and distributing information to fellow farmers and the industry at large.
Duncan Masiwa: Matshidiso, you are well celebrated for your exceptional leadership skills and mentorship offered to fellow farmers. Why is this important to you?
Matshidiso Mooketsi: This is important as it brings inspiration to fellow farmers and also a legacy to me. It becomes more important when I see that there are many farmers who are willing to be productive to contribute to food security, poverty alleviation and economic development at large. This increases the extent to which black farmers own and manage their farm business as well as their access to economic activities, infrastructure and skills training.
As a farming mentor, how have you been ploughing back your skills, knowledge and experience to the benefit of others?
I have hosted several farmers’ information days at my farm which included talks and demonstrations. I have also interacted with other farmers at their locations like farms, villages, auctions, women’s events, churches etc, using our own resources. (Vehicle, fuel, equipment/apparatus).
Why is it important for farmers to have the mentorship of people in their corner who can guide them towards achieving their agricultural goals?
Farming is not a one-man or one-woman show, like in my case I farm and provide mentorship with my husband. It needs collaboration, sharing of ideas and experiences. There are ups and downs in farming and those people in your corner can pull you up when down and can also cheer with you when up.
When a farmer is looking to find him or herself a farming mentor, what should they be looking out for?
She or he must do due diligence first, to make sure that the traits that they exhibit are also visible in the mentor. This includes passion, character, farming experience, enterprise, professionalism, etc.
In your experience, what is the biggest mistake most young or new farmer make?
Unfortunately, when you start farming, one tends to make the mistake of thinking that you can make it quickly alone. Accept that farming requires patience, take baby steps and then grow. Challenges like disease outbreaks and drought and natural disasters are there, but if one has a mentor, they can be able to navigate through these challenges.
New farmers also tend to forget that farming is a business and the backbone of any economy. It’s also important for upcoming farmers to know about my humble beginnings so that they have hope for a better future.