Producing A Harvest Despite The Challenges - Business Media MAGS

Producing A Harvest Despite The Challenges

Despite the agriculture sector being hard hit by COVID-19, young South Africans are implementing innovative strategies to survive the crisis. Levi Letsoko reports.

Lerato Senakhomo, director at Senakhomo Ltd

Lerato Senakhomo developed a love for farming while she was still in high school. Upon noticing this interest, her parents enrolled her at the Buhle (Farmer’s) Academy to study the trade of farming and gain an understanding of the agricultural enterprise.

In addition to her passion for farming, Senakhomo also believes that Senakhomo Ltd is a vehicle for luring more younger people into agriculture and gaining empowerment and dignity in the process.

Doing business during the time of COVID-19 is a diffcult endeavour, but Senakhomo believes in seeking solutions for the challenges facing the farming industry. “The downtime lasted longer than we expected and as a result, business slowed down. We have had to incur extra costs to train and support staff while also providing them with personal protective gear,” she says.

Fortunately for Senakhomo, the pandemic came at a time when she was preparing to harvest vegetables and she successfully managed to secure the goods and recover the important costs. “The pandemic taught me how to adjust in a very short period of time. Farming is my life, I couldn’t allow the pandemic to take away my passion,” she says.

Senakhomo has expressed her gratitude for government support, not only during the outbreak, but also in the early stages of the business. The business has collected numerous accolades including an award from Grain SA for harvesting 256 tons in 80ha of maize as well as an entrepreneur of the year award from the government-supported programme, Landcare. “My goal is to continue empowering other young people through skills transfer while growing and building my business by positioning it to supply the broader food market at a bigger scale,” she concludes.

Melida Ngoasheng, CEO Phetolo Riley Wines

After serving in the provincial government as a personal assistant for over seven years, Melida Ngoasheng decided to take a leap of faith and head into uncharted territories by launching her own wine production company, Phetolo Riley Wines.

Little did she know that six months later, she would be navigating her new start-up into the rough seas of economic uncertainty brought about by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I have always wanted to be my own boss and create employment opportunities for other unemployed South Africans,” says Ngoasheng. “I started researching the wine industry in 2017 and investigating how I could tap into it,” she adds.

Ngoasheng’s company isn’t immune to the financial knocks that ripped through many other businesses as a result of the economic downtime imposed by the lockdown. She has had to reorganise her strategy and be creative about keeping her new business afloat during very trying times. Ngoasheng does not qualify for any government support due to the category classification of the business (sin-tax classification enterprise). “The pandemic has impacted us in a big way as production had to be halted and we had to stop with sales just as we were making a mark introducing the new brand,” she says.

The young entrepreneur strongly believes that her business will persevere during these diffcult times and will be able to return to making a positive contribution to the economy.

“Agriculture and farming provides more than just food, it also provides products that people use on a daily basis and it contributes immensely to the economy,” she concludes.

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