Despite not having formal qualifications in agriculture, Mpumalanga’s Maseko twins are climbing the farming ladder one vegetable at a time. After just a year in business, the sisters are already supplying a local retailer.
“We learnt everything we can from the wisdom of our grandmother; lessons that no one can learn from the university,” says Thandeka, who was born and raised in Middelburg along with her sister, Thando.
While their childhood days certainly weren’t easy, they always felt supported, adds Thandeka. “Growing up was not so tough since I grew up having my mom and grandmother by my side, for which I’m grateful.”
At 22, the Maseko twins are beginning to make a name for themselves in the agricultural sector. After finishing matric, the two were initially puzzled about their next move. It was then that they came across Mpumalanga Fortune 40, an incubation programme for aspirant farmers.
The initiative mentors and trains young people in agriculture production and farm management, ultimately giving them the tools needed to start their very own agricultural enterprises.
Thandeka explains, “We started the programme in September last year and … started our farming project with their assistance. The programme was meant to be for three years. However, for some reasons it was suspended and everyone left.”
Of course, this brought some challenges, but the twins refused to give up and were now even more amped to succeed in crop farming. “We were about 12 learners in the programme. Only my sister and I remained in farming. Others abandoned farming after the programme collapsed.”
The Maseko twins’ determination payed off because they were offered a deal by Choppies, a leading supermarket chain in Middelburg and its surrounding areas. While this has been a game-changer for them, they have not stopped hustling with their peppers, spinach, tomatoes and cabbages on the streets of the province.
According to Thandeka they ventured into farming after she witnessed people go hungry at an old age home. “No one should sleep with an empty stomach. There’s plenty of food. If people can just realise the power of farming, we wouldn’t have to starve.”
Tough road ahead
Together, the Maseko twins are an unstoppable force. Thandeka describes her sister, Thando, as her biggest supporter and pillar of strength.
Even when it is cold and raining, Thando motivates her to work the land. “She is the one I gain strength from, and she also gains strength from me, but the centre [of our relationship] is God.”
Thandeka says they face a number of challenges, including animal pests in their vegetable gardens. Also, it is difficult to grow their business because they are farming on rented land with limited space.
“So, there are limitations. Hadn’t it been like that, I am certain that we [would] have been way ahead in terms of [reaching our] goals. Even though challenges exist, there was [never a] time [when we] felt like quitting. For me, farming is a lifetime profession.”
In their short farming journey, the Maseko twins have learnt the importance of hard work and the art of patience.
“What I can say to youngsters is that they should delete from their minds the mentality that agriculture is for old people. They must try it because it’s very interesting. Fellow farmers must stick [to it] with patience and passion. We shall literally reap what we sow.”
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