Growing up, our elders used to say ‘Ubuhle bendoda zinkomo zayo/ Monna ke dikgomo’, however, the wheels are turning as more and more women find their groove in livestock farming and ownership.
One such woman is North West based farmer Mpho Dirakano, whose aim is to built family generational wealth through farming.
Dirakano is a standing example that though government programmes are sometimes dismissed as a waste of time and root cause of corruption, they are still capable of unearthing rough diamonds.
If directed at the right persons, these programmes can contribute massively to the growth of the economy and job creation.
Dirakano applied for an Umsombomvu Youth Fund learnership (now NYDA) in 2008 under the auspices of the National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation (NERPO), just to get the stipend.
But a few months into the learnership, her mindset changed.
Today, she is a livestock farmer with over 100 cattle and goats and sheep.
Situated in Ganyesa in the North West Province, Dirakano is determined to stamp her authority in the livestock sector.
She dismisses the myth that women can’t farm with the contempt it deserves.
“Women can farm as much as men can do…maybe before when the laws restricted us but today nothing is stopping women from becoming farmers as much as men do…even my male employees know that I work as much as they do…we understand each other and work well together,” she says.
Dirakano says as soon after she realised that farming could change her life for the better, she swam against waves to get where she is today.
At one farm during her practical lessons she had to sleep in a dilapidated water dam covered with plastic sheets on top.
“Many students ran away because of the poor living conditions there but I endured the hardships because by then, I knew exactly where I wanted to go in life and besides, I had nothing to go back home for as I came from a struggling family,” said Dirakano.
In 2010, she received a loan as part of the exit strategy by NERPO and Umsombomvu partnership for development under the programme called Young Agricultural Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YAEDP) to start her own farming operation.
Today Dirakano is occupying about 1600 hectares of state farm in Rodabil where she has employed seven people.
At the farm, Dirakano slept in an old and small farmhouse until 2016, when she received a house through a government recapitalisation programme. The house has also been fitted with a solar system as there’s no electricity at the farm.
She says she is grateful to have proper roof over her head.
She says there is money in livestock farming but a little bit of patience is needed. Her immediate goal is to improve her operations so she could create generational wealth, and not just immediate richness.
To those who are interested in livestock farming, she advised that land size, water sources, and good farm infrastructures such as good boundary fence and handling facilities are important requirements.
“You also need to network with those who are already farming so as to guide you in the right direction,” she said.
Lastly, we jokingly asked Dirakano if being a livestock farmer scares men away from her. “Not at all, farming is like any other business, so at the end of the day I’m a mother and a partner,” she said with a smile\]