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Female farmer reaps the rewards of hard work

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
Twenty years ago, working as an assistant nurse in a clinic, Dorcus Modise never thought she would be one day be an award-winning farmer.

Dorcus Modise (third from left) was overjoyed at being named overall winner at the Nestlé Community Nutrition Awards. Sharing in the moment were (from left) Lot Molati of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, Modise's husband Bernie Modise, 2013 Best Subsistence Farmer of the Year Kenalemang Kgoroeadira and Nestlé managing director and chairman Sullivan O’Carroll.The 49-year-old, from Rankelenyane Village in Rustenburg, says it was democracy that opened the door for her to become a business owner and provide employment for people in her village.

“I am so proud of this government. It has done so much for us. I am a farmer today because of this government. A lot has changed in the 20 years of democracy.

“As a woman I would not be where I am today if the former government was still in power. I am so proud of South Africa,” said Modise.

All those years ago, while working in the clinic, she had a burning desire to venture out on her own.

So in 1993, Modise and her husband, who was a teacher at the time, decided to open a tuckshop.

“We would buy vegetables from the local farmer and sell them to the community. As time went by we began to question why couldn’t we grow our own vegetables.”

The couple started small and formed a backyard garden in 1994. They also asked the local chief to allocate them land.

“We had to start this business with our own sweat because in those days there was not much that the government could do to help start up farmers.”

She eventually quit her job and decided to focus on the business.

“Between 2000 and 2007, things really began to look up for my business and it began expanding.

“The local chief gave us more land we now have five hectares that we work from. We started with only one hectare in our backyard.” During this period, she also attended workshops hosted by the Bojanala Platinum Municipality.

“This was when I realised that there was true potential in farming. I registered my business as Tabea DM Trading & Projects CC.”

She now grows spinach, oranges, tomatoes, and onions and will soon add peaches to her crops. She has 98 orange trees and employs 10 people.

Modise supplies her produce to Food Bank South Africa, Spar, three schools and the community.

Her efforts were rewarded in 2008 when she won the award for Backyard Female Farmer of the Year, which came with R50 000, from the North West Department of Agriculture.

“I used this money to buy a bakkie to transport my crops to buyers.”

Modise does not believe in waiting for government handouts, saying farming was her passion and it was up to her to make it a success.

“Farming is what makes me happy. It’s what I enjoy.”

Recently, Modise also won R50 000 at the Nestlé Community Nutrition Awards as the overall winner for the work she does. She said she would plough the money back into the business by fixing her water pump.

Her plans for the future include acquiring more land, planting more crops and assisting other start up farming business.