In the words of South African Icon, Winnie Mandela, “To those who oppose us, we say, strike the women, and you strike the rock”. This quote is pertinent in the life of many women, especially when they have to work harder to be recognised in a specific career that is dominated by the men.
While the agricultural sector is developing at a rapid pace, it’s imperative that diversity is carried out and prioritised along with future economic planning.
Over the past decades, there has been improvement regarding the number of women in management roles within the agricultural sector. Currently, there are influential women employed at businesses such as Grain SA’s farmer development programme, Agbiz Grain and Fruit SA.
Regarding the national labour sector, women are still in the minority according to the employment stats of the Department of Agriculture with a mediocre 32% according to Statistics South Africa for the past decade. There is still much work to be done.
The National Development Department proposed that agriculture has the capability of creating around 1 million jobs by the year 2030. Whether or not this will be achieved is still to be seen.
However, the most vital problem that needs to be solved is solutions of dealing with gender disparities in possible employment, to better the ratio of women in the agricultural labour market over the years to come.
This should not just be restricted to the labour market and agri businesses, but should also be implemented in government and stakeholder policy discussions and public forums.
Towards a Food Secure 2030
During July 2017, Oliver and Adelaide Tambo in partnership with Absa Bank organised the event Towards a Food Secure 2030. The panel consisted of Agri SA chief economist Hamlet Hlomendlini, Research Professor Voster Muchenje from the University of Fort Hare, Senior Agricultural Economist Wessel Lemmer and farmer Sibuyiselwe Sontundu.
Women leading the way
Sontundu is a young, accomplished female farmer and a force to be reckoned with from the town Mqanduli located in the Eastern Cape. She briefly enlightened all present how she became involved in the agricultural department at a young age in 1999, while having a good support system from organised agriculture groups and government.
Throughout the years, she worked hard and gained many skills and was able to diversify her farming enterprise. Her farming business manufactures grains, livestock and provides supplies to surrounding local businesses. It’s not a large enterprise, but it creates a big impact in the rural areas of Mqanduli.
Her discussion was insightful, informative and inspired many women. There are more many more Sontundus out there, and with the correct support from government and the private sector, they can reach their full potential.
Voster Muchenje stated that his classes were packed with women that are pursuing scientific research aspects within the agricultural sector, where they require fair opportunities to share their knowledge as well as improve South Africa’s agriculture department.
There is strength in and a need for diversity discussions that require captivating the younger generation to the department, especially young women, which needs to held in conjunction with large enterprises to diversify the department of agriculture and guarantee participation by Eastern Cape women.