Thabo Mohlala

According to Solidaridad, an international civil society working in over 40 countries with eight regional offices on five continents, around 70% of smallholder farmers are women yet only about 17% of landholders in sub-Saharan Africa are female. The organisation also indicated that women also receive less than 10% of available credit and 7% of credit extension services.

Running family farm

Given this scenario and the fact that farming is still traditionally a male preserve; it represents a major achievement every time a single woman joins the sector. And Keatlegile Mnguni is the latest young female entrepreneur who has just entered the world of farming.  She is currently managing her family’s farming operations based in Bronkhorstspruit. Although farming was not her first passion, Miss Mnguni has grown into it and does not feel like she can swap it for any job. Not only is she running her growing family farming business but she is also the chairperson of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA), a position she was elected into in 2020.

Entrepreneurial spirit

In 2018 Miss Mnguni graduated with a National Diploma in Hospitality Management: Food and Beverages from the Cape Peninsular University of Technology (CPUT). Soon thereafter she worked for a few months at a retirement home as food and beverage assistant manager. This was followed by another stint as a chef at a lodge based on the farm where she used to spend her free days. As an entrepreneur, Miss Mnguni also baked cakes and cupcakes for extra income. In the end she took the plunge and decided to quit her job as a chef at the lodge and decided to work on the farm on a full-time basis.

Daddy’s girl

But Miss Mnguni says entering farming was not easy even though she worked on the family business. She says initially her father was a bit resistant because he felt that as a girl she would not cope with the rigorous manual farm work.  “In the beginning, it was quite frustrating because being the only woman on the farm doing technical work; my father was picky about what he involved me in,” says Miss Mnguni.

She says this was a source of frustration and also annoyed her because her father saw her as a little girl who should perform only certain tasks assigned by him. “Then I knew I had to fight my way to earn my place for him to take me seriously,” she says, adding that she roped in her mother who was her pillar of support and a source of encouragement.

Male dominance

Miss Mnguni says initially when she started to work in the farm she used to feel intimidated because of the dominance of men in the industry who looked down on her. She says this used to affect her self-esteem and confidence. I would underestimate my ability to be a good role player in the agribusiness. But being surrounded by other young female farmers and older female farmers, other female role players with industry experience, I derived my confidence from there,” she adds.

Creating a platform for the youth

Regarding her appointment as the AFASA representative, Miss Mnguni says she is grateful for the confidence shown in her leadership to lead the organisation. She says she is happy with the team that she will be working with in the organisation. Her role as the chairperson of the AFASA’s youth is to understand the needs and challenges faced by young farmers.

Once these problems have been identified she will then provide a platform for them to engage with suitable role-players who will attend to their needs. Some of the way in which she interacts with the youth includes road shows, district workshops and Annual Young Farmers Summit.

Miss Mnguni says she is indebted to her two lecturers, namely, Beverley Seager and Kate Lategan at her alma mater, CPUT. She says the duo encouraged and supported her dream of combining food and beverage with agriculture.