While a lot of strides have been made to empower women in the agricultural space, Mzansi women farmers and agricultural leaders believe that the road ahead is still long. In celebration of Women’s Day, role players across the country share their views on how far women have come, and what still needs to be done to overcome obstacles.
Women have a lot to offer
Ipeleng Kwadi-Seboni, a cattle farmer in North West, said the government needed to increase the participation of women in the commercial space through empowerment and inclusive transformation in the sector.
“Women in agriculture are making their leadership presence felt in agripreneurship, agricultural business development, training spaces, primary agri health care, and agro-processing.
“So, women are rising to the challenge, we are not competing with anyone. We just want to be part of the sector and create jobs, we are capable of that as well,” she added.
Kwadi-Seboni urged women to be united and speak in one voice as working in silos could lead to women not reaching their desired destinies.
“To gain more empowerment to feed the nation, women across the country should grab opportunities of being involved in agricultural organisations such as women in agriculture and rural development, and the youth in agriculture and rural development to address agricultural issues collectively,” she said.
Taking stock of achievements
Shandini Naidoo, founder of AvoPort, said in celebrating Women’s Day it was important to recognise and celebrate the resilience of South African women in the agricultural space and how far they have come to leave their mark on the sector.
“As we celebrate another year of blessings, challenges, and obstacles, it is important for us to reflect on all that has happened and take stock of the lessons learnt.
“To grow and improve in what we have already accomplished and pave the way for many entrants to the sector to embrace and see the wonders of agriculture,” Naidoo said.
Naidoo said it was imperative for those in positions of power to create a favourable marketplace and policy environment that enables and empowers women role players to be that individual and collective in driving change and contributing to sustainable economic growth within the sector.
“More efforts towards education and skills development, and greater GAP accreditation for farmers will help remove barriers to market,” she added.
Chief executive of agriculture development agency Leona Archary said despite the great strides made to empower women in the sector more work needed to be done.
“Much needs to be done to ensure greater inclusivity in ownership of commercial agricultural businesses and participation in platforms that influence policy and strategy in agriculture.
“Women, I believe can play a major role in crafting food security programmes and policies that are sustainable and implementable as they have the ability as studies have shown to maximise the use of resources to fulfill the function of caring for households and community,” she said.
Access to funding
Crop farmer in KwaZulu-Natal Sthembile Ngubane said farming was not easy for a young woman trying to make a living out of it.
“Farming is not easy, especially with the minimum resources that we have but if what you are doing is in your heart then carry on, funding will find you along the way. There is more than enough room for everyone in farming so let us get down and dirty and feed the nation,” she said.
Meanwhile, Gauteng cattle farmer Nompumelelo Dhlamini said there is a lot of energy needed to empower women in the sector to ensure the transfer of skills and entrepreneurial gains.
“Being young, black and female in the sector, access to land, funding, and information are limited to us. It will be worth it that energy and time be spent on mentoring us young women, from graduating from communal or small-scale to commercial.
“As mothers of the nation, we are masterminds and only if we work together the nation shall be fed. Let us continue breaking bread together, we are winning,” she said.
Striving amid lack of support
Sugarcane farmer and South African Farmers Development Association (Safda) deputy chairperson Lee Hlubi said women have played a significant role in agriculture in democratic South Africa.
Over the years, the contribution of women to agriculture has grown substantially, and they have become vital pillars of the industry. Women are involved in various aspects of farming, including crop cultivation, animal husbandry, agribusiness, and even leadership roles within agricultural organisations, she said.
“Despite this progress, there are still some shortfalls that need to be attended to. One of the main challenges women face in the agricultural sector is unequal access to resources, such as land, credit, technology, and training,” she added.
Potential is often hindered
Hlubi believes that women often encounter difficulties in acquiring land rights and accessing financial support, which hinders their full potential in contributing to the sector’s growth.
“Moreover, gender-based discrimination and cultural biases can also limit women’s participation in decision-making processes and leadership roles within the agricultural community.
“To all the women in the agricultural sector, I wish you a happy and empowering Women’s Day. Your dedication and hard work in this field are commendable, and you are an inspiration to many. As we celebrate this day, let us also reflect on the progress we’ve made and the challenges that lie ahead,” she said.
There are still some shortfalls
Johannesburg rooftop hydroponic farmer Zandile Khumalo said the role of women in the agricultural sector is significant in democratic South Africa. However, there are some shortfalls that need attention, such as improving access to resources like land, finance, and technology for women farmers.
“To all the remarkable women in the agricultural sector, as you celebrate Women’s Day, I want to applaud your unwavering dedication and invaluable contributions to agriculture and rural development.
“Your hard work and resilience are shaping a brighter future for South Africa. Keep breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and inspiring others with your passion and expertise. Remember, your role is crucial, and your impact is immeasurable,” she said.
Little progress has been made
North West-based agro-processor Rethabile Ngwenya said the role women play in agriculture cannot be underestimated and more resources need to be given to women-led businesses in the sector.
“I would encourage them to keep on feeding the nation and to start empowering one another women have incredible potential for transforming agriculture because there is a saying that says, ‘If you teach a man to farm, his family will eat but if you teach a woman to farm the community will eat’,” she said.
Sibongile Cele, a hydroponic farmer in Hillbrow, Gauteng said women needed to be given priority when it comes to opportunities in the agricultural sector.
Mpumalanga poultry farmer Lebogang Mashigo told Food For Mzansi that there’s little-seen significance and not because women are failing, but because there’s little being done to assist women to get into the industry.
“It is very expensive to acquire agricultural land in South Africa, it is so difficult for a woman to get land in rural areas. A man must speak on your behalf and have the money to pay for it.
“Getting resources to farm is almost impossible. I think the government is trying other stakeholders are still lacking behind. We need to give women access to land and training to work the land then fund their ventures with money and a coach next to them,” she said.
Sign up for Farmer’s Inside Track: Join our exclusive platform for new entrants into farming and agri-business, with newsletters and podcasts.