From being poverty stricken and teased for working on a farm, Mahlatse Matlakane (20) is now a beaming green pepper farmer.
Mahlatse began volunteering at a local green pepper farm over weekends and school holidays at the age of 15 to help her unemployed mother put food on the table.
Matlakane is based in Ga-Moisimane in Buchum just outside Polokwane in Limpopo.
She said although she is enjoying the fruits of her labour it was not always easy.
“Growing up was very hard for my siblings and I. My peers used to mock me when I started working on the farm and said that farming was for illiterate people.
“This hurt my feelings but I wanted to gain knowledge in farming so that I could pursue it as a career,” she said.
When Matlakane had gained some experience she approached the owner of the farm where she was volunteering Johan Nel about planting her own seeds and growing peppers.
Nel gave her two hectares of land on his farm.
“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 fall in love with farming even more. I knew right there that this is what I wanted to do,” said Matlakane.
After completing matric Matlakane took a gap year despite having been accepted at the University of Johannesburg to study law.
She went back to Nel to ask him for more farming assistance and he suggested that she speak to a chief in the area about the possibility of giving her land.
After seeing her progress on Nel’s farm the local chief gave her 40 hectares of land on the Babirwa Ba Tau Ya Tswala farm from where she now runs her business. She has employed four young people to work on the developing farm business.
Matlakane’s farm supplies green peppers to fresh produce markets in Bochum, Polokwane and Johannesburg.
While her business has a comfortable monthly turnover Matlakane has her sights set on breaking into the international market. Matlakane said she is positive about her future and has a goal to uplift her poverty-stricken community members by providing skills and employment as her business continues to grow.