In Brits in the North West, a large town known for the production of citrus, vegetable and grain, Ipeleng Kwadi has decided to leave her family business to spread her agri wings and build her own farming dreams.
Armed with pure perseverance, grit and years of knowledge, the female farmer continues to set her eyes on bigger and better goals. Her newly registered business, Motsobella Farming Enterprise, breeds pigs and boer goats and a few chickens. The business was started in September 2019 with nine pigs and 16 goats. She does this on land close to 20 hectares in size.
Before venturing out on her own, Kwadi worked for years alongside her father and brothers on the family farm. They kept Bonsmara cattle and ran an agritourism business, utilising the dam and camping site on the property.
She started working full time on the family farm in 2012, after a leaving a career as a geography educator. Following in her mother’s footsteps as a teacher was her second option. She had aspired to work in media as a radio host, but her dad did not approve.
“I could never really get away from farm life,” she says. “Over the weekends, and school holidays, I would go to the farm and help everyone in any case.”
Reflecting on her journey, Kwadi says working with your nearest and dearest is no walk in the park.
“I left because I wanted to be independent and make my own decisions. You know, it’s difficult working with your dad. We used to have very long dialogues that yielded no results. I was like, no, let me just go and start my own empire,” she says.
It was noticing the success of her female farmer peers that made Kwadi change her mind about agriculture and decide to give it a go.
“I’m so happy when I am on the farm,” she says. Her farm in Brits is rented property, and through it she has managed to make quite a name for herself in her community.
What she loves most about her job is being able to plow back into her community. She allows young girls to come to her farm and learn more about the trade. Kwadi also goes to high schools to do talks, while her family provides bursaries for scholars who have done well.
“We need to change the perception that agriculture is only an industry for men with muscles.”
Venturing out on her own came with many challenges, she says.
“When you become independent you struggle to access land and water. In agriculture challenges are our everyday life. You just need to find a way of solving them. You don’t give up,” Kwadi explains.
She recalls going to auctions and training sessions where she would be one of only two women in a room full of men.
“Men can be so dominant and as a female you would feel inferior. But then we released, eh-eh man, we belong here, and we can also do it.”
She feels strongly about women taking up space. “We need to change the perception that agriculture is only an industry for men with muscles. A lot of people are still surprised by me being a farmer. Even my family are surprised by who I am becoming. This is who I am, and I will never change.”
On her farming future, Kwadi says she plans to rent land and start an agricultural processing facility specialising in animal feed. She says she’s realised that most of the young black farmers struggle with access to feed as it is expensive.
She also wants to go into the business of supplying free-range pork.
“I see myself as a commercial farmer, both in animal and plant production. Then there’s my big dream of becoming the minister of agriculture. Thoko Didiza must watch out,” she exclaims.
“I’m coming for her seat. First on my to-do list is getting more women into agriculture and making sure that farmers can enjoy access to new technology.”