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The importance of farming in South Africa is unquantifiable. When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the first 21 days of lockdown in 2020, farming and agriculture remained fully operational. At the core of that was food – the supply of food is essential and farmers wake up everyday to ensure that South Africans do not go to bed hungry.

According to the Human Sciences Research Council, 60% of South African women are involved in the agricultural sector. The research indicates that women own less than 30% of agricultural land, and the rest is owned by men.

Furthermore, only 1 out of every 10 farms in South Africa is run by a woman and they receive only 10% of the available credit.  

‘’If there’s any funding available, I do apply but I have not yet received any, however my hopes remain high,’’ says Ipeleng Kwadi, our feature for today’s A Woman Belongs in farming. 

Ipeleng Kwadi left her teaching career to follow her passion for farming. She did not let the hurdles in farming keep her down. Her determination and hard work grew her farm from doing mixed farming to owning a store that sells her vegetables in the North West province. 

Kwadi’s farm ‘’Motshotelo Farming Enterprise’’ does mixed farming from pigs, goats, chickens to vegetables.

In this A Woman Belongs feature, Ipeleng takes us through her farming journey and the hurdles that come with farming, and shares why she thought it was important to have a career transition. 

Here’s what she shared with us…

Q. Talk to us about who Ipeleng Kwadi is outside of farming.

Outside of farming there is no Ipeleng Kwadi. The farming environment completes me because I have accepted farming as more than just a business. I spend most of my time networking with other farmers. When I’m not at the farm or at home with my family I am most probably with people in the farming community.

Q. What are some of your hobbies? What helps you relax? 

I love cooking, especially on Sundays. You will typically find me in the kitchen preparing lunch for my family. I always make sure it’s a family affair when I get time to sit down and relax. Apart from that I love going out on game drives and observing wildlife. I’m fascinated by the way nature operates, so during the hunting season I’m always out hunting with my close friends. 

Q.  What does a typical day at work look like for you? 

My day at work is all about the wellbeing of animals. I make sure that all the animals are fed, I then manage Agriculture interns, and ensure that they get quality practical work. On Fridays, I do farm visits to surrounding youth in Agriculture farms since I am one of the mentors in the province. I interact a lot with young people in Agriculture in developing the quality of our Farming business.

Q. Take us back to the moment you decided that farming is what you want to do for the rest of your life, and how was the transitional process from teaching to farming?

I have always farmed with my family from childhood so there was nothing difficult. It was actually a relief when I left teaching for farming because I had always wanted to do farming full time.

Q. You grew up in a family that also does farming, why did you decide to branch out to start your own farming business?

Every once in a while, I sit down with my family on business development models. So, I didn’t leave entirely yet. When Covid-19 hit, I had so many challenges and I’m glad that through the help of family, I managed to bounce back in changing my business model in Agro processing which includes attending trainings and processing meat. 

Q. What are the biggest challenges you’ve met within the industry, and what lessons did you take away from the experience?

Women are as powerful as men; we need to close the gender gap and practice working collectively in the food security sector and sustain the future in Africa. There is so much talent that the youth and women are bringing in the industry. I lacked confidence when I was doing work in livestock production because of the mentality that people had. 

There’s a belief that Agriculture is a hard laborious career filled with uneducated people but I built my self-esteem through the years to show younger girls interested in farming that there’s nothing to be ashamed about. 

Fun fact: In farming, there is a lot of mathematics and science involved, and we deal with finances as well. There are many careers that can be linked to farming

Q. At Art of Superwoman, we strongly believe in affirmations. How do you affirm yourself through difficulties you meet at work?

I’m a praying woman who believes in inviting God every time I breed my animals or plants. It does get tough sometimes, like losing 70% of production but you need to stand still and give it a try again. The most important thing is to be confident. People will test your patience by calling you names but you need to believe in yourself as a woman and never give up on your dreams. 

Many women have asked me how I deal with situations where I am being asked for sexual favours in order to get ahead because this is a male dominated industry. I always encourage them to work hard and focus on their work because sexual favours will not take anyone far. 

Q. What does your support structure look like in the industry?

There is less support and more support expected but from experience, I learned not to have expectations. If there’s any funding available, I do apply but I have not yet received any, however my hopes remain high.

Q. The national minimum wage for farm workers was increased last year to alleviate the unfair wages. From where you’re sitting as a farm owner, are women farm workers being paid enough and what role are you playing in ensuring fairness in farm wages for women? 

I treat both genders equally, though my preference is always to empower women. I make sure my employees are paid fairly, and on time and I always comply with rules and regulations to set a standard for young upcoming businesswomen.

Q. Your farm breeds pigs, goats, and chickens. How do you ensure that you dedicate enough time to all those demanding aspects of farming?

I keep records of everything on the farm. I have a farm manager, but I personally check farm records to see what are the losses and successes and how I can move forward in complimenting my staff or improving their work. What’s important is physically being at the farm to identify the challenges.

Q. We often hear about food shortages that might occur in the future because the global population keeps growing, and challenges stemming from global warming. At the moment, what is the state of South Africa’s food supply and food security?

I usually ask my friends in farming whether South Africa has food security. I think that with the current high unemployment rate, electricity crisis, and exponential increases in food prices, I’m afraid our country is slowly heading towards a future that might have food insecurity. But as farmers, it’s our duty to make sure that we prepare ourselves to serve and make sure that no one sleeps hungry in SA. 

Q. What was the last book you read or are currently reading?

Indigenous trees of Africa. I’m so passionate about learning about nature conservation. There are a lot of people who are doing harm to the environment so the least I can do is learn how to interact positively with nature.

It is quite beautiful to learn that Ipeleng is using her resources to mentor younger women within the farming sector. 

She is actively being the change that she wants to see, and it is women like her that need to be supported – not just with finances, but with essential skills and knowledge that will sustain her farm’s success.