Livestock farming is absolutely challenging and enjoyable. But as a small-scale emerging female farmer, it is difficult to get a breakthrough because this agribusiness is dominated by men.
But it’s women like Maria Langalebalele who give you that eternal hope not to lose heart. She started 30 years ago with one sheep in her backyard with no background or training in farming. Today she farms with pigs, goats and sheep.
Women tend to be community oriented, “if you teach a man to farm then his family benefits. But teach a woman to farm and the community will benefit,” explains Maria.
“With the help of farming, I was able to let all my children study further and take care of their daily needs. Women reduce rural poverty, they understand the struggle for poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment,” says a proud Maria.
Women are often looked down upon in the agricultural business, says Maria. Women in the Northern Cape have been most affected by unemployment but it appears that the government has failed to effectively empower women in Upington in the Northern Cape. In Paballelo there are only 10% female farmers of which 8% are older women between 50-60 years, the 2% of the women are middle-aged. One of the most common gender-specific barriers is the lack of and access to land. To be a livestock farmer on a full-time basis is every farmer’s dream to be close to the livestock and take control of every activity. Female farmers are disadvantaged before they can plough a field or sow seeds, because communication is one of the most problematic factors in agricultural business.
“After 30 years of repeated applications for land, my application is still unsuccessful. When I make enquiries about my application there are always others who get first priority. I had 30 cattle at one point, but had to sell them because there is not enough space to graze. Due to the lack of water, I had lost 10 cattle and had to sell the others. Due to the shortage of water, I asked the municipality for help with a water tank or a plot of wetland where I can also plant lucerne as I have a paid-up lease. My cries for help once again fell on deaf ears. I bring water from home in 25 litre jugs, because the water is sometimes off for three consecutive days. The livestock are dying because of the drought,” says a frustrated Maria.
“My livestock are stolen, and the men walk over you as a woman. Often my livestock is stolen by my fellow male farmers and there is no help for me anywhere. As an emerging female farmer in the Northern Cape province, it means working ten times harder than anyone in order to be recognized as a farmer,” explains Maria.
But even though there are numerous challenges, Maria still encourages women to consider livestock farming. “Women must not forget their role as bearers of the food basket in South Africa, the Imbokodo – the woman who works the land,” explains Maria. “Food security is very close to our hearts as women and mothers.” It makes sense that more women are getting involved in this sector!