Women in agriculture face challenges

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Women are making strides as agricultural producers, but acceptance in this sector remains a major challenge.

24 year-old Siphesihle Kwetana, from the Eastern Cape, is making waves. Her business supplies vegetables to all major retail outlets in Mthatha and surrounding areas.

The Cofimvaba resident started her business in Mawasa village in Qumbu. After two failed businesses, she started a small garden selling spinach to street vendors. From there she moved to supermarkets supplying spinach.

“When I started farming, I started small at Mthatha dam with spinach in two hectares of land. From there, I sold the spinach to street vendors. They were ordering small bunches of spinach; they started with ten from there they ordered 20 and the order grew to 50 bunches. After that, I presented my spinach samples to Spar and they liked them, although they were placing small orders.”

From supplying one major supermarket, she never looked back. She currently rents 85 hectares of land. She supplies six tons of green pepper, spinach and 10 000 heads of cabbage to supermarkets in Mthatha, Mount Frere, Qumbu and Tsolo.

Kwetana employs twenty workers, but being a young female farmer has been a struggle for her.

“When you talk about farming, people expect an old man. For me to be a farmer at this young age was a challenge for me. Even the supermarket managers were not taking me serious. They would always say, ‘we would get back to you’ after pitching to them.”

Kwetana’s hard work was recently recognized in the Youth in Agriculture Awards. Although she’s an award winning farmer, funding for her business has been a challenge.

“After winning this national award, I thought I will get assistance, I even phoned the Agriculture Department. My water pump is broken and to fix it in East London, it cost R25 000 and I do not have that kind of amount now.”

Kwetana wants a bank which focuses on agriculture. She says it’s a struggle to secure a loan for farmers. Incentives for supermarkets getting supplied by local farmers would improve business for emerging farmers.