IN­SPI­RA­TION Plant­ing seeds of her fu­ture

Mahlatse Mat­lakane grew an in­ter­est in farm­ing when she was just 15 years old

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Orifha Nn­de­leni

POVERTY has forced many girls to do dif­fer­ent things in­clud­ing pros­ti­tu­tion to get money for things such as buy­ing san­i­tary tow­els or help­ing their fam­i­lies put food on the ta­ble. When Mahlatse Mat­lakane (20) from Ga-Moisi­mane in Bochum, just out­side Polok­wane, Lim­popo, was faced with the same predica­ment, she took a dif­fer­ent route to put food on the ta­ble by go­ing into farm­ing.

GET­TING INTO FARM­ING

In 2014 when Mahlatse was 15 years old, she de­cided to work at a lo­cal farm on week­ends to make ex­tra money and help her un­em­ployed mother care for her and her two sib­lings.

The farm she worked on planted green pep­pers, and she says she fell in love with her job.

“I was amazed by how small seeds could turn into plants that pro­duced big green pep­pers. See­ing how the plants were taken care of by us­ing fer­tilis­ers to con­trol bugs made me love farm­ing. I knew this was what I wanted to do,” she says. “I then de­cided to work at the farm dur­ing school hol­i­days. My peers mocked me say­ing farm work was for il­lit­er­ate poor peo­ple. But I knew what I was doing. I wanted to gain knowl­edge in farm­ing so that I could pur­sue it as a ca­reer.” In De­cem­ber of that year, Mahlatse ap­proached the farm owner, Jo­han Nel, about plough­ing the seeds her­self and grow­ing the pep­per from start.

Be­cause Jo­han saw her love for farm­ing, he gave her a two hectare plot on his land to do this. “The pep­per crops I had grown in­side trays turned out so well that Jo­han en­cour­aged me to take care of them un­til they grew fruit,” she says.

WE MUST RUN PROJECTS AND CRE­ATE JOBS AS WELL

HER OWN PRO­DUCE

When Mahlatse com­pleted ma­tric in 2016, she had a choice to study law at ei­ther Wits Univer­sity or the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg as she was ac­cepted at both in­sti­tu­tions. But she con­vinced her mother to let her take a gap year in or­der to de­cide if she in­deed wanted to study law.

“I went back to the farm and asked Jo­han to help me pur­sue my love for farm­ing. He sug­gested that I talk to a chief in the neigh­bour­ing vil­lage about giv­ing me land. When the chief saw the work I had done at Jo­han’s farm, he was im­pressed and of­fered me 40 hectares of land from the Babirwa Ba Tau Ya Tswala Farm and asked that I em­ploy lo­cal peo­ple if I needed help,” she says.

With the seeds she re­ceived from Jo­han, she only used three hectares of the land, where she ploughed green pep­pers as she has ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with them.

GET­TING A HELP­ING HAND

Even though she now has peo­ple work­ing for her, Mahlatse en­sures she runs the farm her­self and takes care of the plants, which she says pro­duce big pep­pers be­cause they are get­ting her love and at­ten­tion daily. See­ing her daugh­ter’s hard work pay off, Mahlatse’s mother, Tiny, also helps at the farm on some days. But things were not al­ways easy for Mahlatse as she didn’t get much help with the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem, fer­tilis­ers and seeds and was us­ing a drip­ping ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem do­nated by Jo­han and water from the river next to the farm. She is plan­ning to ex­pand after a con­struc­tion com­pany she ap­proached for help do­nated an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem to cover four hectares. “I owe my suc­cess to Jo­han be­cause he be­lieved in me, men­tored me and gave me a start. I wouldn’t have done it with­out him. He ba­si­cally trained me,” she adds.

CRE­AT­ING OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES

Mahlatse’s farm sup­plies green pep­pers to fresh pro­duce mar­kets in Bochum and Polok­wane.

She has also em­ployed four peo­ple as per her agree­ment with the chief.

She be­lieves that young peo­ple should start be­ing taught how to cre­ate jobs as early as high school, in­stead of be­ing taught to study and be em­ploy­ees.

“It breaks my heart to see young peo­ple, espe­cially in the vil­lages who just want to go to school and be em­ployed. That’s why we have a high num­ber of un­em­ployed grad­u­ates be­cause that’s all we are taught, things need to change. We must run projects and cre­ate jobs as well,” says Mahlatse.

Her fu­ture plans in­clude get­ting for­mal train­ing in agri­cul­ture through short cour­ses so she can stay on top of her game as new and mod­ern ways of grow­ing veg­eta­bles are al­ways in­tro­duced.

Mahlatse Mat­lakane says she knew she wanted to go into farm­ing when she worked on one

Mahlatse Mat­lakane plants and sells green pep­pers to mar­kets in Polok­wane and Bochum

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