Sunflower production has seen levels of decline over the last decade, with BFAP studies indicating a greater reduction in the North West province. Not so, according to the gospel of the vivacious Power Fm Radio presenter, Koketso Moloko.
“Sunflower farming is interesting because you are contributing to the oil seeds industry and the feed industry. This is processed into sunflower oil and oilcake for animal feed” she said.
A full-time farmer by profession, specialising in crop production, she initially started with maize later adding sunflower.
Sunflower is a summer crop which is particularly farmed for oil and uses its oil cake in formulating animal feed. South Africa’s yearly production of sunflower production ranged from 600 000 tonnes to approximately 800 000 tonnes.
Many men feared to tread in this industry because of its limited crop yield (as compared to planting maize) including the market constraints in sunflower production.
Unfazed by these gruesome conditions, Koketso said she planted sunflowers because of the desire to increase her knowledge in the industry. The fortitude did pay off eventually. Koketso now annually harvests quality yellow maize and sunflower, and has sold her produce so many times to Noord Wes Kooperasie (NWK).
Koketso adds “I have offered seasonal employment for up to 40 seasonal workers during my production season. I also harvested grass and sold it to local livestock producers as feed for their animals.”
Her crop production expansion is however thwarted by the ever-present factor limiting many female farmers from accessing finance – an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). She still has an outstanding balance to pay for the EIA completion on her farm.
EIA’s by any individual account is expensive and can hold farmer expansion plans. Koketso currently has plans to add 6 more hectares of shade net to start production of spinach, beetroot and cabbages. “The challenges I experienced in field crop farming is a need for mechanization like more tractors, better implements, fencing and irrigation infrastructure such as a center pivot” she said.
Women like Keketso are pioneers in the agricultural industry, unafraid to advocate for more opportunities to be created for women. In most agricultural seminars and policy focus engagements, many have spoken about her invaluable contribution to female farmer development in the country.
It’s no surprise that she was calling for more women farmers to be interviewed for board positions at big agricultural conglomerates.
“African women farmers can add a diverse voice to these boards and address actual transformation in the agricultural sector” she said.