Under normal circumstances, women from rural areas make excuses from the demands of family life, claiming these make it impossible for them to focus on their personal and entrepreneurial development. However, Mosele Qhusheka, 46, has dispelled this belief. Lack of resources, finance, training, appropriate technology and poor infrastructure, that continue to torment our female farmers were not enough to hinder her from realising her dream. Today, through World Vision’s assistance, her plants are not only the centre of attraction in the area, but she is counted among women who have made a reasonable contribution towards poverty alleviation in the Free State.
Having grown up in a subsistence farming household, she regressed to crop farming when her husband - father of her five children, lost his job. Little did she know this was a step towards honour of being announced as the 2008 Free State Farmer of the Year Award in the household category.
Originally from the Eastern Cape, Qhusheka and her family moved to Thaba Nchu, Free State, about four years ago, but life was not going to be a bed of roses for this hard working woman. “When we moved here I was very concerned about the very dry and hot weather conditions”, recalls Qhusheka. To make things worse, Thaba Nchu is one of many rural areas in the country that lack access to clean drinking water, not to mention irrigation water. As if that was not enough, she had another obstacle of land space limitation. She then decided to approach people who had big gardens in the community, but were not utilising them. “I plant their gardens and share some of the produce with them”, she says.
Through World Vision’s assistance with seedlings for a variety of vegetables, the intelligent farmer has now planted cabbage, beetroot, onion, carrots, tomatoes and sweet potato in more than six household gardens in her community. “Most of these households do not have any employed person, so this initiative provided an answer,” she says. Adding that her family also depends on the profit made from the vegetables to take care of their family needs like buying clothes, school uniforms and paying school fees. Qhusheka also acknowledge that it is World Vision’s training on soil preparation, use of chemicals, crop rotation and spacing that has helped her to be where she is today. “One of the things that impressed the judges during the assessment of my gardens was the neat planting area and the quality of my plants, and all of this I learnt from World Vision agricultural workshops”, she says.
By providing support to these farmers, World Vision is encouraging them to grow their food gardens into commercially viable enterprises, towards established food security and job creation in their communities. “We would like to invest in these female farmers as our hope. Given the necessary support, they have the ability to give the country a reasonable mileage in terms of the fight against poverty’, says national director of World Vision South Africa, Lehlohonolo Chabeli. Chabeli hopes they will also serve as role models for many unemployed youth who need to learn to make the most of the resources around them. These sentiments are shared by Qhusheka, whose wish is to own a farm area where she can empower the youth with farming skills, and it looks like it will not take her long to realise this wish. She has also arranged to have her produce on the selves on the local Pick n Pay store by next season.
Initiated by the Department of Agriculture in 1999, the Female Farmer of the Year Awards, recognise the contributions that female farmers are making under challenging circumstances. The annual award honours the top producer in four categories including export markets, national markets, informal markets and household use. The department’s officials and other role players identify and shortlist the farmers in each of these categories. Provincial winners in each of the four categories compete for the top positions in the national leg of the competition.
- Olwetu Mafutha is communications officer at World Vision South Africa.