There’s a village outside Polokwane called Nobody, where everybody knows the “farmer from the north”. Her name is Maphate Rakoma and she has soldiered through many setbacks to feed her village and surrounding communities.
There’s the water and electricity challenges of rural Limpopo and the fact that, starting out, she never had agricultural experience. But none of these could keep Rakoma from thriving as a broiler chicken farmer, successful business owner and reliable supplier to the people of the surrounds. Because she had iron determination to realise her passion.
The farmer from the north – as she calls herself – is a graduate in agricultural economics from the University of Limpopo. She says farming is in her blood. Every morning, at the break of dawn, she wakes up to do something that puts a wide smile on her face and fills her heart with joy. Because, she professes proudly, she is living out her passion, doing something that she went to school for and, more importantly, serving the needs of the people of her community.
While many small businesses struggle to access land in rural areas, the local tribal authority welcomed her idea of wanting to farm. They gave her permission and full right to use communal land.
Armed with their game-changing letter, Rakoma seized the opportunity to start her own poultry business.
“I currently own one hectare of land where I am producing 1 000 chickens per cycle of 35 days. I started broiler farming last year in May while I was part of the Gauteng department of agriculture’s programme, which helped me a lot in starting my own broiler production.”
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Rakoma believes that challenges can be overcome. Those she has faced thus far as a young, black, female farmer in a disadvantaged community have only made her stronger. She has evolved into strong and resilient businesswoman capable of making very tough decisions.
“The challenges that I face are similar to the challenges that my male counterparts are facing: water accessibility, land and electricity. So, I would say we are all in the same boat,” Rakoma explains.
“Farming is a business of passion. If you want to win, you need to love your [chickens] and they will love you back.”
So naturally, since starting her business, she has not looked back. Thanks to the support of her community members and family, she has navigated through tough times such as the Covid-19 pandemic and changing weather patterns.
Looking to the future
Rakoma believes that young people need to use their skills and knowledge to start their own cooperatives or businesses to create jobs, especially in the most rural corners of Mzansi where economic opportunities are scarce.
She calls on young people to hit the ground running in starting businesses – no matter how small – which she believes will help bring an end to poverty and unemployment.
Currently she employs one permanent worker and another works on a part-time schedule. Rakoma is hopeful that, as time goes by, she will be able to employ more people and reach other provinces.
While she has done well for a new start-up, Rakoma is adamant that this is only a glimpse of what’s to come. Besides, “I still have a lot to offer my community,” she tells Food For Mzansi.
“Resellers and households are my biggest customers in my area and [the future plans for] my business is to increase production exponentially and to add other enterprises to my agribusiness.”
With nothing standing in her way thus far, Rakoma is determined to push her business to even greater heights.
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