Sibulele Mapuza is one of the young aspirant female farmers who are keen to break the stranglehold that men continues to have on agriculture. The 23 year-old who hails from Butterworth in the Eastern Cape, is currently pursuing studies towards a Bachelor of Science in agriculture: animal production science in the faculty of science and agriculture at the University of Fort Hare. She recently obtained the highest pass mark of 85% in her first semester, which does not only augurs well for her future career but it is also a firm indication that she is on course to achieving her goal of being a professional livestock farmer.
Mapuza says she was inspired by her uncle who used to tend their family’s livestock; an occupation that was widespread among rural young men back then. And as she grew up the passion and desire also deepened. Mapuza says she used to witness all the activities that relate to herding and the general wellbeing of the livestock farming such as dipping, feeding and vaccination etc. This piqued her interest as she wanted to learn more about the science behind animal production and management. “When I was in primary school I would watch my uncle herding and dipping livestock which included cows and goats. I become intrigued by the management of animals and started to develop a desire to study the biology of animals,” explains Mapuza.
She says as far back as her primary school days she used do her own research, read various literature including watching animal and environmental channels such as Nat Geo Wild. “I fed myself with so much information, by the time I was in high school; I already knew that my career ambition was in animal science,” she adds. And true to form, upon completing her Grade 12 in 2017, she enrolled for an agricultural management diploma at Nelson Mandela University.
Making farming gender inclusive
But Mapuza joins a sector that is yet to transform the sector to accommodate women farmers. Experts say although women are the integral part of farming, they still face a number of barriers making it difficult for them to contribute meaningfully towards food security in Africa and the globe. The main contributory factor is women’s lack access to productive resources, technologies, services and markets. The department of agriculture and rural development has embarked on a number of initiatives to address this situation by increasing the women participation in agriculture as well as ensuring that the land ownership patterns include women.
Agro-processing and agribusiness programme
Addressing a webinar last year in August, Minister Thoko Didiza told the gathering that one of the areas that she is focusing on is to ensure more women get involved is agro-processing and agribusiness programme. She said the objective is to “expand women’s knowledge and entry into the agribusiness sector”, adding, “We are doing this in order to ensure that support mechanisms for women in the agribusiness sector are available”.
In addition, minister Didiza said that they were piloting with 100 women who have already entered the agro-processing space although at a small scale level. “The intention is to incubate these women enterprises such that they can become sustainable and grow. This pilot will ensure that we learn from our interventions as well as from the women themselves. At the end of the pilot we can then roll out at scale,” minister Didiza.
Women are primary food producers
According to the UN, on average, women make up about 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Further evidence indicates that if these women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 per cent, raising total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 per cent. In turn, this would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 per cent.
Women farmers are considered primary producers of food and it is widely believed that empowering them can substantially increase household income, develop a robust rural and community livelihood that can also sustain and ensure food security. It is hoped that when Mapuza completes her degree the [farming] playing field would have been sufficiently levelled.