Lerato Senakhomo (27), a full-time commercial and multi-award-winning woman farmer, is the winner of this year’s Young Farmer Award.
Her interest in farming started with her parents, who are dairy farmers. After applying for land through the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the family moved to maize farming on their plot in Nigel. This makes her a two time winner of the award.
“I was introduced to farming by my parents in the year of 2006, and completed various agricultural skills courses,” says Senakhomo.
Senakhomo completed her training with GrainSA, ARC and Buhle Farmer’s Academy in Delmas, Mpumalanga. She notes that these workshops and courses have proved invaluable to her farm’s success.
Senakhomo’s rise in the agricultural sector is evidence of the variety of awards, prizes and nominations she’s garnered since creating Senakhomo Farming in 2016.
When she registered her business, she received much recognition from GrainSA and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which provided her with production input.
In 2016, she planted 50 hectares of white maize and 30 hectares of yellow maize. Her output in her first year was 366 tonnes of maize harvest and earned her status and recognition in the farming community.
Senakhomo has also received kudos for her Water Efficient Maize for Africa, which is also drought resistant.
Commendations for Senakhomo Farming include: a nomination for GrainSA, first runner-up in last year’s awards, and the MEC Special Award 2017. This year she was also the winner of the Land Care Entrepreneur of the Year, as well as Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Young Farmer of the Year.
After winning the MEC Special Award last year, Senakhomo grew her enterprise and caught the attention of the adjudicators this year. “In 2017 I was a first runner-up, and this year I’ve been chosen as the overall winner. I’m so proud because it means I’m doing well, I’m doing something good. I’m on the right path, you know. The Department of Agriculture and Land Reform does so many great things to help us gain skills,” she said.
Today Senakhomo farms 300 Boerbok goats, 72 Nguni cattle, 150 sheep and 80 hectares of sugar beans.
“I see myself as inspiration to other youth and see that there is space in agriculture for them,” she states. She employs three farm workers and is active in her community – assisting in youth empowerment projects at schools and assists subsistence farmers with land.
Her plans for the farm include a large broiler (chicken farming) that will allow her to trade both formally and informally, and could create at least 16 permanent jobs in Nigel.
She hopes to provide free training for community members on proper agricultural practices. With the prize money from this award, she wants to buy more livestock and machinery – “or maybe even a new bakkie!” she laughs.