Women in agriculture saluted for their effort

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

  • The empowerment of women in agriculture was front and foremost during the first annual Women in Agribusiness Summit held at the Sernick farm near Edenville in the Free State.
  • Minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, was among a list of distinguished guest speakers. She acknowledged that, despite challenges such as access to land, water and affordable agricultural credit, women still make a sizable contribution towards strengthening food security at household level in South Africa.
  • Chairperson of the Sernick Group, Nick Serfontein, highlighted the importance of the agricultural sector ‚Äď not only does it contribute 8% to the country‚Äôs gross domestic product, but it also employs some 1,3 million people throughout the entire value chain.
  • Dr Langelihle Simela, business development manager at Absa Agribusiness, said most small and medium agribusinesses cannot meet the banking industry‚Äôs requirements for access to finance.

The empowerment of women in agriculture was front and foremost during the first annual Women in Agribusiness Summit held at the Sernick farm near Edenville in the Free State. The summit, which was well attended by female farmers from across the country, is the brainchild of Tracy Marobobo of the Tracy M Foundation.

Marobobo and a team of co-ordinators from the Women in Agribusiness Platform hosted the event in conjunction with the Sernick Group and its farmer development company, SerDev, to celebrate Women’s Month. The Women in Agribusiness Platform is part of the foundation. Marobobo, who is also a beneficiary of the Sernick Emerging Farmers Programme, said the foundation aims to empower women and ensure they are capacitated in the industry.

  • Some of the Sernick Emerging Farmers Programme‚Äôs tier-three farmers in the Free State are Merriam Vent from Reddersburg, Joyce Mabeleng from Senekal, and Maria Tswayi from Hertzogville.
    Some of the Sernick Emerging Farmers Programme’s tier-three farmers in the Free State are Merriam Vent from Reddersburg, Joyce Mabeleng from Senekal, and Maria Tswayi from Hertzogville.

Committed to female agriculturalists

Minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, was among a list of distinguished guest speakers. She acknowledged that, despite challenges such as access to land, water and affordable agricultural credit, women still make a sizable contribution towards strengthening food security at household level in South Africa.

Issues relating to affordability also influence female farmers’ ability to access agricultural inputs, seed, markets, technology and information. Didiza said fundamental steps are, however, being taken by government to confront some of these challenges. This includes the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP) which addresses obstacles preventing inclusive growth, farmer support and empowerment of women and youth in agriculture. Government, via the AAMP plan, is working closely with the private sector and other value chain role-players to enhance support and unlock the potential of each commodity in the industry.

Read more about the University of the Free State’s women empowerment programme here.

Beneficiary selection and land allocation policies have been reviewed to put targets in place that promote land allocation to women. Didiza added that finance programmes, such as the Blended Finance Scheme in conjunction with the Land Bank and Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC), provide funding to female-owned businesses and initiatives. Land reform efforts are being accelerated through transferring some government-acquired land to deserving beneficiaries of whom women are amongst the priority groups.

Didiza said government is also continuing to open export markets, and China‚Äôs recent confirmation that it will allow the importation of South African meat products is reassuring. 

Saluting women

Chairperson of the Sernick Group, Nick Serfontein, highlighted the importance of the agricultural sector ‚Äď not only does it contribute 8% to the country‚Äôs gross domestic product, but it also employs some 1,3 million people throughout the entire value chain.

  • Wilmarie Mathee and her mother, Cathy Jason, a dairy farmer from Wepener and a tier-three farmer, were very impressed with the summit.
    Wilmarie Mathee and her mother, Cathy Jason, a dairy farmer from Wepener and a tier-three farmer, were very impressed with the summit.

Female farmers, he said, are without a doubt extremely valuable to the industry, but added that gender inequality in the sector and the perception that farming is a man’s job need addressing. Take for example the fact that although 80% of all smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women, only 15% of them are landowners. Serfontein saluted women in agriculture, saying the Sernick Group’s Emerging Farmers Programme has proven that women can indeed outperform men.

Petro Naudé, managing director of SerDev, which together with the Jobs Fund launched the programme in 2018, announced that the programme’s tier-based model is being expanded to the Bafokeng Group in the Pilanesberg in North West and to Kuruman in the Northern Cape. The programme, which aims to empower developing farmers through training and hands-on interaction and support on their farms in the Free State, a small part of North West and Gauteng, has served its purpose well. SerDev is also looking to introduce it in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape as well.

Meeting requirements

Dr Langelihle Simela, business development manager at Absa Agribusiness, said most small and medium agribusinesses cannot meet the banking industry’s requirements for access to finance. She provided some valuable guidelines in this regard, which firstly includes a focus on providing proof of experience. It is therefore crucial to keep historical records of business performance and financial records from day one.

In terms of the ability to repay a loan, a business plan with a realistic projection of the forecasted cashflow needs to be in place. Simela said most small and medium-sized enterprises also lack collateral to provide security as a guarantee, but banks can rely on alternatives such as credit-guarantee schemes for security.

To watch a highlights video of the Women in Agribusiness Summit, follow the link below:

For more information, visit www.serdev.co.za. – Christal-Lize Muller, Plaas Media

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