Two of South Africa’s agricultural iron ladies, Dr Konanani Liphadzi (Fruit SA) and Western Cape Department of Agriculture (HOD) Joynene Isaacs, are stepping down from their roles at the end of March 2020.
Liphadzi was the first Chief Executive Officer of Fruit South Africa having served in that role for almost 6 years. Isaacs, on the other hand, has been with the department since 2002 – first as a director, acting HOD and permanently appointed HOD in 2006.
The Western Cape Department of Agriculture was the first province to implement the Agricultural Information System (AIMS). “My darling, I know where my farmers are, how much tons they produce, what they need and how much they need,” she said at the 2019 Agricultural Research Symposium.
Other provinces have stagnated in implementing the AIMS project and true to her unselfish character, she raised her hand to offer assistance.
As a Chief Director: Farmer Support and Development in 2004, she brought innovation to the definition of farm support which again other provinces are still using as a template. She is the first to introduce term ‘farmer development scheme’; bringing a group of black farmers, industry, government and retail. Her budget was increased from R7 million to R70 million over four years.
At Fruit SA, Liphadzi led the transformation of the Fruit industry with fervour particularly ensuring that women in the industry received market access. Under her reign, the fruit industry managed to pull together government, fruit business sector, labour and associations to foster global market access for South African fruits.
She has glowingly succeeded in introducing our fruits to the Asian market.
Benchmarked against other agricultural industries, Liphadzi managed to develop and steer the first fruit industry transformation strategy with visible shared hallmarks of government, fruit industry and labour incorporation.
In 2019, the Southern Hemisphere Association of Fresh Fruit Exporters (SHAFFE) elected Liphadzi as its new president. Citrus Growers Association CEO Justin Chadwick praised Liphadzi sterling record at Fruit SA.
“Konanani took on the challenge and has raised the profile of Fruit South Africa to a point where the organization is well known in government circles and amongst Fruit South Africa stakeholders,” he said.
Both black females, Liphadzi and Isaacs had to fend off embedded chauvinism. Their efforts have paved the rise of women in agricultural top positions.
“As I leave, I am fully convinced that as South Africans we have it within ourselves, our country, our sector and our industry to significantly improve the socioeconomic equity challenges that face our country,” Liphadzi said in a statement.
For Isaacs, agriculture has always left her excited and in 2017 she received a Chancellor’s Award from the University of Free State. She has always been 20 steps ahead of agriculture introducing radio programmes to communicate government programs, climate-smart agriculture portal and was working towards establishing a drone academy.