Kireshni Naiker believes to prosper in life, you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets. This aspiring dairy farmer said “yes” to being kicked and crapped and peed on when she started her farming internship at a milking parlour in Howick, Kwa-Zulu Natal. Naiker’s tenacity and love for farming has even given her the chance to travel to Australia to complete a farming internship in Tasmania.
At first glance, it is easy to assume that the fetching young Naiker from Chatsworth in Durban couldn’t possibly be cut out for the tough life of a farmer, but a newspaper article about the Future Farmers Foundation, an organisation assisting young aspiring farmers in South Africa, led Naiker (27) to apply for a two-year farming internship in KZN.
She was accepted as a Future Farmer intern in 2016. Naiker joined a three-year program which is split into two parts: two years completing an internship in SA and an opportunity to complete a one-year internship on a farm abroad.
The Karkloof dairy farmer Ren Stubbs warned her about the type of work she’d have to do on his farm. “I gave him a determined yes, but nothing prepared me for the experience I was going to have,” says Naiker.
Stubbs says that although Naiker had no farming experience, her passion, commitment and the challenge he gave her at the time was proof that she was powerful candidate. By the time Naiker completed the first two years of her internship on Stubbs’s farm, she had gotten to a junior management position. According to Stubbs, she was doing a pretty good job of running a substantial size of their dairy operations.
Naiker is now finishing her final year as a Future Farmer in Tasmania, an island state off Australia’s south coast. Although she recently started her internship abroad, she says she’s gained the ability to work independently and efficiently on a large scale farm.
“The cultural experience is amazing and you learn to be more open-minded,” she adds.
Despite encountering many challenges, especially as a woman in the sector, she has her heart dead set on becoming a successful dairy farmer in Mzansi. “The main challenge is being a woman in farming. Unfortunately the agricultural industry is still behind when it comes to accepting women in farming. It’s a male-dominated industry and has been for many years,” says Naiker.
Her love for animals and hours spent playing with her siblings, of which she has five, and friends in the neighbourhood where she grew up is where Naiker discovered her passion for nature and the life it creates. “When I first discovered that I love animals I wanted to study veterinarian science. As a kid I thought that was the only way I could interact with animals, but after matriculating in 2009 I chose agriculture.”
“Being an animal scientist and farming was something I was destined for,” says Naiker.
The journey to where she is today took hard work and determination. In 2010 when she expected to start university, the institution she applied to lost her application and when she reapplied it was too late. She opted to work for a year and applied again. She says: “After much struggle, hard work and bridging courses to upgrade my maths I finally got into university and completed my BSc honours degree in Animal and Poultry science in 2016”.
Even though Naiker has no farming background, she has a passion for agriculture she cannot explain. She also tributes her success in both her personal and professional life to her father, Selvan Naiker. “My father is the main reason I am the woman I am today. He has taught me valuable life skills and instilled morals and values in me that has greatly influenced my success,” says Naiker.
Her father’s advice has been valuable in overcoming a number of challenges Naiker had to face during her farming internships. He’d say: “You have to first pass the spanners before you learn to fix a car, so starting from the bottom is the best place to start”. This piece of advice has enabled Naiker to learn all the aspects of running a farm so that one day she can manage or even run her own farming operation.
It’s a family first for this aspiring farmer, who says her family has been her biggest motivator. “Farming is not easy,” she says. Aware of the extreme difficulties in the industry, she believes that being passionate about farming is the only way to survive.
“Agriculture as a whole is ever-changing. It may not be an attractive career choice to the youth because it’s not as glamourous as other careers, but it is an industry that is becoming highly technical. Technology is fundamentally going to change how we use our natural resources to produce food. There is already an agricultural revolution,” Naiker adds.
In 10 years’ time, Naiker sees herself running her own dairy farm, which she envisions to be one of the best.
She is determined to develop a dairy farm that will change the industry’s farming methods by using technology to achieve profitable, sustainable and environmentally friendly products.
“As a young person in farming, I see the dire need for an exchange of knowledge on farms and today’s youth rarely have access to this practical world,” says Naiker. She hopes to use her future farm as a training facility to provide a platform for young people to have access to critical and technical farming skills.
Naiker’s passion for farming is infectious and her dream to farm on her own land to feed a nation efficiently and sustainably is undeniably inspiring.