You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it, so leave a mark that the next generation will get to recognise your legacy.


Rural Development Projects


Kidlinks Small Farm Incubator

Asanda Apleni, 34, who has a master’s in agricultural economics, is a founding director and  facilities and community outreach manager of Kidlinks Small Farm Incubator in the Eastern Cape. As a native of the Eastern Cape, Asanda has spent her adult life working to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural farmers.

She has been a farmer field schools approach facilitator since 2015. This is a group-based educational learning approach where farmers learn from each other and share information and skills, as well as identify problems and find solutions. Asanda trains people in organic farming, which means they don’t use chemicals, pesticides, and insecticides because these are detrimental to our health and that of the environment. And it is a sustainable alternative to the high input, capital intensive conventional commercial farming.

She also teaches the importance of nutrition and to understand environmental, animal and human well-being. “I facilitate them to a point where they are sustainable and can sell their produce in the shops,” she says.

This year, Asanda started facilitating home gardening and working with schools in ward 32. She also works with the leaders of the Gompo Farmers’ Association. Asanda was previously the farmer field schools facilitator for the Livelihood, Agroecology, Nutrition, and Development project and Agricultural and Rural Development Research Institute at the University of Fort Hare.

  • BAgric in agricultural economics:, University of Fort Hare
  • Honours in agricultural economics, University of Fort Hare
  • Masters in agricultural economics, University of Fort Hare

  • German Academic Exchange Service DAAD scholarship, 2014
  • National Research Foundation (Ravac) bursary for a master’s in agricultural economics, 2015-2016
  • Keynote address at the Kidlinks Small Farm Incubator fundraiser in the US, 2017  
  • Award at an international conference by Ravac, 2017
  • Top employee of the year, 2023
  • Paper published: Apleni e tal. The impact of the Farmer Field School Approach on Small-scale Vegetable Producers’ Knowledge and Production in Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa, 2019

I grew up in a poor family near Willowvale in the Eastern Cape. I became interested in studying for a degree in agriculture so that I may gain a better understanding of farming and livelihoods. I feel that I have an obligation to uplift rural people, and I am optimistic and passionate about development, food security and poverty alleviation. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a place in the department of agricultural economics and extension at the University of Fort Hare. 

At about that time (early 2015), I was employed on a part-time basis by Fort Hare’s Agricultural and Rural Development Research Institute. Together with the Nkonkobe Farmers’ Association (NFA), the institute decided to initiate some agricultural study groups in the area, modelled on the farmer field school approach to extension. This was the same approach that I was using for the community outreach programme at Kidlinks Small Farm Incubator.

To succeed in life you have to make sacrifices. You may not be able to change the beginning but you can definitely change the ending.

I would like South Africa to be led by youth, the changemakers. I would like South Africa to change the system of education so that we are a nation that is self-employed and innovative.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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