Celebrating women and youth in agriculture

The winners of the annual Young Farmers and Young Female Entrepreneurs Awards with their various awards. (Photo: Wikus de Wet/AFP)

The winners of the annual Young Farmers and Young Female Entrepreneurs Awards with their various awards. (Photo: Wikus de Wet/AFP)

“Women and the youth are taking advantage of the technology, resources and support offered by government to contribute to the economy of this country. Women of high calibre – it’s time to claim your space in this patriarchal sector,” said Matsunke Malefane, deputy director, sector transformation at the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (Daff) at the annual Young Farmers and Young Female Entrepreneurs Awards, held in Vanderbijlpark this past Friday.

The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries celebrated their commitment to empowering vulnerable farmers by hosting the 19th edition of this awards ceremony.

The importance of the event was emphasised by Loyiso Mkwana, (acting deputy general of Natural Resources). “According to the United Nations Development Programme, women produce more than 80% of the continent’s agricultural production, yet they only own roughly 1% of productive land and have no access to productive resources. Their conditions are still deplorable.”

Women farmers could increase their yields by at least 30% if they had access to the same equipment and machinery as male farmers. The awards highlighted the challenges that women farmers face, as well as what can be done with the right support, skills training and commitment to transformation from government departments.

In a talented and packed line-up of nominees, young female farmers swept up the awards — a fitting Women’s Month tribute to the previously unrecognised contributions of black women farmers in South Africa’s agricultural sector.

The overall winner of the Gauteng Young Farmer’s Award in 2018/2019 is Lerato Senakhomo of Senakhomo Farming. The overall Young Female Entrepreneur Award went to Portia Mngomezulu, founder of Sibahle Skin Solutions. The Young Farmer and Female Entrepreneur Awards play a vital role in increasing the visibility of women and youth in the agricultural sector and recognising their invaluable contributions to the economy of the country.

The Young Farmer Awards (YFA) Programme was initiated in 2012 by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Gauteng, to acknowledge the role played by youth in agriculture in Gauteng and make careers in agriculture a viable and recognised path for young South Africans.

The Female Entrepreneurs Awards was established in 1999. The motivation for the awards is to showcase the variety of entrepreneurships. Women are carving for themselves, including subsistence, commercial and export farming, as well as in the processing and manufacturing sectors.

All the nominees play important roles in poverty alleviation, maintaining South Africa’s food security and economic growth.

Gender transformation and youth involvement in the economy is of provincial, national and global imperative, and these awards are a significant highlight for Gauteng farmers from vulnerable groups.

“To date, a total of approximately 2 800 women have participated in these awards. Though these women have to deal with the intricacies of socioeconomic factors, food insecurity and male chauvinism, they could still strike a balance between entrepreneurship and skills transfer.

“Notwithstanding these adversities, the female farming community is steadily but surely being assimilated into mainstream agriculture, and it is envisaged that in a few years these farmers will take their rightful place in the agricultural sector,” Mkwana said.

The event recognises Gauteng producers, farmers and entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector. And with only 30 000 commercial farmers operating nationally, according to Mkwana, the awards are a crucial way to increase visibility and sustainability in the agriculture sector.