When the global Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, life seemed dark for Masentle Lukhele, but she was determined to provide for her family. A business idea sparked and in that same year, her farming journey started. She is one of the inspiring women selected for Corteva Women Agripreneur 2022, a year-long blended development programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA).
Lukhele grew up in a village in the Free State where farming was a part of her daily routine. As a toddler, she witnessed her family grow produce and she continued the tradition in her own life.
“I got into farming because of the love I have for farming. I grew up in the villages where most of our food was coming from the garden,” says Lukhele.
Even though she was gardening as a subsistence farmer when Covid-19 struck, money was tight. Lukhele had to think about alternative ways to provide for her family. The idea to sell the produce she is growing became a lifeline during the pandemic.
“We produce our own vegetables, eggs, and chicken at home. After Covid-19, I took farming seriously. I started selling the products to raise funds for my family because times were tough.”
Even though she came from a farming background, for 14 years Lukhele was in the banking and insurance industry. She explains that her primary income was impacted negatively by Covid-19 and serious changes had to be made. Everything she did was to protect and provide for her family.
“Where I was working at the bank, I was earning a small basic salary and commission. People were no longer buying banking products, people were out of jobs and closing their accounts. I did not have many sales.”
The start of something new
During the lockdown, her passion was revived and Lukhele started to pursue farming.
“I turned the love I had for farming into a business. I started with 100 broilers and from there I never looked back,” says Lukhele.
But this is just the beginning, as she has many dreams and plans. The one dream that sets fire in her soul is the dream of owning a hydroponic farm.
“My dream is to own a hydroponic farm where I will be growing cucumbers, tomatoes, and green peppers.”
Load shedding challenges
Even though she does not own land, Lukhele takes pride in the business she has created. One of her biggest challenges is load shedding because broiler production relies on electricity – from production to sales.
“At this point in time, it remains difficult because everyone has challenges with load shedding, especially in chicken farming,” says Lukhele.
“I also need my own farm because I can’t produce the volumes that my customers demand.”
Inevitably, she has to outsource because she is leasing a piece of land.
There is nothing like a woman sharing her passion in a programme that completely changed her life. According to Lukhele, she met wonderful farmers who are all driven to leave a mark in the sector.
She adds that one of the best things about the Corteva programme is making contacts and finding women who are willing to offer advice.
“I have met some wonderful people who are doing great in the industry. I can see that I have the potential to grow and I have also managed to grow some working relationships with some of the women,” she says excitedly.
But what is even more special, is that people who have been in this industry for decades are willing to help, and desire that the team wins. It also helps her to share the knowledge she acquired.
All about growth
“I am very driven and more determined than ever to make this business work and to see my business growing,” says Lukhele.
She is grateful to Corteva for the role that it has played in her life and she is looking forward to the many strides that are yet to be won.
“I would like to thank Corteva for the opportunity – this is a very beautiful programme for people like me. I think they can keep on doing it.”
At the end of the day Lukhele is determined to achieve her goals and she wears that badge of honour with pride.
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