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Female farmer succeeds in a man’s world

Written by Albert Pule
Rachel Mamonare Mathabathe’s farm is situated along the R101 road that links Mookgophong and Polokwane in Limpopo.

Rachel Mathabathe with some of her cattle at Ngwanaboko Farming project farm.The 428 hectare farm is home to Mathabathe and her livestock. On arrival at the farm one is greeted by the bleating of sheep and goats and a herd of more than 300 grazing cattle. The farm is unique because it is owned and managed by a female farmer.

Mathabathe started the Ngwanaboko Farming Project with her late husband in 1998 and, at the time, they only had a handful of animals, namely five sheep, five goats and four cows. Her husband passed away in 2000 and she took it upon herself to make the project a success. The number of animals has multiplied and Mathabathe now owns 200 goats, 350 sheep and over 300 cattle.

The farm supplies local farmers with cattle and also sells to the market.

In 2009, Mathabathe acquired her farm through the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development programme. Her journey as a farmer has not been easy because she is a woman in a male-dominated field, but she made a vow to succeed.

“When my husband passed on many people thought that the farm would fail because a woman had taken over; it was very difficult. But I told myself that I would prove them wrong,” she said with a smile, during a recent interview with Vuk’uzenzele. 

Her farming career has been boosted by the number of awards that she has won.

“The awards motivate me to work even harder,” said Mathabathe.

In 2012, she was named Best Small Scale Farmer for the Waterberg District Municipality winning R5000. The same year, she won Best Small Stock Holder Farmer at provincial level pocketing R60 000 and in 2013 she won the National Beef Farmer of the Year Award, presented by the Agricultural Research Council.

She employs three locals to work on the farm.

Mathabathe said the secrets to her success are determination, commitment, exchanging experience with other farmers and a love for farming.

“You will not succeed in this business if you don’t have a love and passion for farming. One of the other things that gave me the edge was talking to and learning from neighbouring farmers. One of them has even become my mentor.”

Mathabathe has a close relationship with her mentor, former traffic officer Monyebodi Johannes, who she credits as being a great help with the maintenance of the farm.