Thandi Sithole (38) and her husband, also a farmer, make a decent enough profit to support their two sons – “and even to pay for my trip to run the Comrades Marathon this year for the Evander Athletics Club,” she says, laughing happily.
And yes, this energetic and hard-working farmer did finish the Comrades, to her delight – and ours!
Thandi is a member of the Izithelo Zezandla Zethu cooperative farming, which rents three hectares of land near Embalenhle, Mpumalanga. They grow potatoes, cabbages, kale, spinach, mustard spinach, and peppers on 1.5ha of the land, employing five other people part-time.
Her career path has been an unusual one. She started out in the construction industry as a cleaner, then became a receptionist, secretary and, eventually, a manager. Realising that this did not satisfy her entrepreneurial spirit, she launched own construction company but, over time, found that business was intermittent due to much competition. Yearning for a change, she opted for farming.
“Our grans and moms are usually the ones doing the farming, but it’s so peaceful and I’m so happy now, that I know that this is where I belong,” she says.
“Farming’s a very good option, because as long as you have land you have a job.”
Thandi completed a Vegetable Production course at Buhle in 2019, and a Business Management course with us in early 2023. She is part of a group supported by Sasol, which paid for her refresher training; inputs including her solar pump, tools and potato seeds, and mentorship from Buhle’s farmer support officers.
Buhle also provided her with shade-netting, donated to us by Master Plastics, to protect her vegetables.
“When we plant, we plant big, knowing this means we’re enabling more people to go to bed without hunger – and I love that. I make sure my prices are affordable, because it shouldn’t be me alone who benefits from my work; the one hand in the community helps another.”
Thandi’s superpower is the ability to push herself hard, she says. “I need to work hard and be at the farm every day, because I know that I must work to get everything I want and need.
“Farming is tough at the beginning, but after planting, it’s maintenance, which is easier.”
She encourages other young women to try farming. “It holds many opportunities and help is available from different organisations, like Sasol, who funded me, and the Department of Labour. If you want knowledge, come, and learn from those of us who are already farming!
“Our mothers and grandmothers are still working the land, but they get tired after a few hours. It is their turn to rest now, and to advise us on how to do it. Who will continue with their farming work, if not us younger people? We are the ones who must work the long hours.”
Unemployment is so pervasive that many young people with degrees “end up sitting at home,” she observes. “But with farming, I’m earning money weeks after planting, and the more I push myself, the more money I make. Every day, I gain more knowledge, and knowledge is power.
“I thank Buhle and Sasol for their support. They don’t give us money and leave; they keep checking up on us. If I have a problem, I’m not afraid to call, because they are friendly. They assist us a lot and we’re grateful. We appreciate it a lot!”
“You can’t work alone. We need one another, and we need to help – and teach – one another.
“Farming is life. For me, it’s a job that brings peace.”
ENDSTags: #Africanfarmer, #agripreneur, #farmersupport, #farmertraining, #jobcreation, #skillsdevelopment, #womenfarmers