Limpopo mom sees small-scale farming as answer to poverty

A woman from Khopho Village, outside Tzaneen, is planning to turn her passion for farming into an opportunity to create jobs for her community to alleviate hunger and poverty. A 30-year-old mother of three, from Limpopo province, has joined a growing band of small-scale farmers in the area in a bid to address poverty and inadequate access to food in her community.

Lebogang Manamela, from Khopho Village outside Tzaneen, said it was her grandmother who instilled a love of farming in her at an early age. Manamela said her grandmother introduced her to farming when she was young and she fell in love with it. She said her gran used to grow vegetables which she sold to the community. Manamela said she started commercial farming back in 2016 when she grew spinach to sell to local supermarkets. However, she suffered a major setback when she lost her entire hectare of crops to drought.

“There are always challenges when it comes to farming; you must have perseverance and determination. Last year, I lost hectare worth of green beans, as I didn’t have enough water, so I had to watch it all fade away. I didn’t go to school for this, so that held me back a bit because knowledge is key in this industry if you want to progress. I think I need to go to school or attend workshops on how to take care of certain crops and how to use chemicals because right now that’s what I’m struggling with,” said Manamela.

According to Manamela, funding is a challenge because she can’t afford to pay people who can assist her so she is taking care of two hectares alone and it’s very difficult. She said that she aspires to own a big farm one day and employ people to create job opportunities for her community.

“Poverty is rife in my area, so it is my aim to create jobs and feed lot of needy people,” Manamela said.

Riba Makgoba, who is responsible for small-scale farmers at the Limpopo Department of Agriculture, said the provincial government is able to assist farmers by providing seedlings, manure and irrigation pipes, which enable them to run their farms more effectively.

“We have tractors available for small-scale farmers to use, however, they must pay R700 for maintenance and for the driver,” Makgoba said.

Tracy Ledger, an independent consultant specialising in local economic development, food security and public sector reform at the Public Affairs Research Institute, explained that a lack of access to funding continues to be a challenge for black small-scale farmers.

“I think a lot of challenges faced by black female small-scale farmers are very similar to those faced by black male small-scale farmers. Mainly it’s the difficulty of accessing capital that they need to invest into their business. However, an additional difficulty that female small-scale farmers face is a lack of access to land through traditional authorities. A well-documented case is that of the Ngonyama Trust, which systemically excluded women,” said Ledger.

“Women must participate more actively in economic activities such as farming. We need more livelihood opportunities for everyone in South Africa and it’s particularly important for women in the lower income bracket, because they have limited opportunities.

Women often also have a primary responsibility of feeding their children, so when they earn an income we see better results in terms of them being able to provide adequate nutrition to their kids. Therefore, it is important for women to get involved in economic opportunities, with farming being an ideal way for women to earn a living,” she added.

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