Agrotech is redefining farming in Africa. A lot of young women don’t view farming as an “attractive” career but it is one of the most rewarding career paths in Africa. A lot of organic food can be homegrown in Africa, and even exported to other countries if it is done right.
Mbali Nwoko is transforming the agricultural ecosystem in Africa. She is an ardent entrepreneur who is passionate about business and entrepreneurship. She decided to pursue a career in farming after doing market research and learning that there were a lot of opportunities in the agricultural sector. She has since empowered many women to pursue thriving agricultural careers. She is a graduate of the University of Johannasburg.
What sparked your interest in farming? What sparked my interest in farming was being encouraged by a friend to start farming because he thought I would do well in it and he was right. I also liked the passion that he had about farming which convinced me to start my own farm.
What are some challenges you have faced as one of the few black female farmers in South Africa?I have experienced some discrimination from clients who think that because I am a female, I am incapable of farming successfully and almost expecting you to fail, because farming is “hard” and “tough” almost, alluding that women cannot handle such roles.
Another challenge I have faced is being able to recruit female workers. Most young people will not readily avail themselves to work at a farm so you are left to hire older women who then sometimes find difficulty in taking orders from a young employer like myself.
How would you explain what you do to a 10 year old?I grow food, mainly vegetables and I sell it to the shops where their parents buy their groceries.
Technology is changing the agriculture industry. How has tech impacted your business ? Technology has aided my business to grow by streamlining my work processes. I am able to do my record keeping much more effectively and be able to share that with my supervisor and vice versa. Technology has enabled us to have direct access to Agronomists which i would not have been able to have access to before, so they help with identifying what problems I have on my crops, if any. With the systems that the fresh produce markets provide, I am able to get prices of crops in the morning and be able to calculate on average, what revenue we will be making on that day. Technology has played a major role in my business and i see it only improving from here onwards.
A lot of women in Africa are not taken seriously as farmers, and this can negatively impact impact a business. How do you combat that bias? I think as women we need to believe in ourselves that whether there are biases or not, we can be successful either way. We do not need other people’s permission to follow our dreams nor do we need their validation .As women, we need to be confident in ourselves. We need know our limits and also see the success stories of other females as a basis of what is possible and or achievable out there in the world.
What changes would you like to see in the agricultural industry in Africa? Increased export channels from one african country to another. Currently there are some countries in Africa that you cannot export to because of lack of infrastructure which increase the cost of exporting. I would like to see more farmers from all demographics contributing to the agricultural sector, as it’s recorded that the average age of a farmer is over the age of 60 years and therefore we cannot rely on an ageing farming community to be solely responsible for the food we consume, we need to see younger players who are innovative and open to new ways of farming. I would also like to see an increased participation of women contributing to drafting our agri policies throughout Africa and making decisive inputs and decisions on where the future of agriculture lies.
What advice do you have for young women who want to start their career or transition into the farming industry? Think and dream big however start small. Farming is a journey, there are so many elements that can either make or break your farming business and most importantly treat your farm as a business. Most people go into farming because there are grants and funding available however those individuals don’t last in the industry because their hearts are not in the right place. Explore and consider other ways of adding value in the agriculture sector; farming is not the only option, women can be experts or specialists in number of fields and offer their services to farmers or agribusinesses that are in short of specialists to consult.