The wheels of gender equality are in motion and enterprising women are slowly establishing themselves in industries traditionally known as the ‘preserve’ of men.
Even though their enterprise is still small, the intentions are bold – they want to take the industry by storm.
Meet Zipho and Zovuyo Makwabe, the identical Pedi-born 28-year-old twin sisters poised for business stardom.
Their venture was initiated in 2016 on the realization that there was a gem in the market which needed to be explored. They did not have any financial resources but quick thinking paved the way for bigger things.
Zipho swotted it out at farms, tirelessly working, and requested calves as her salary. That gamble of refusing cash suddenly paid off and the rest – as they say – is history.
“It started in 2016 when I was doing my last year at the University of Fort Hare. I saw a gap and opened a company with my twin whereby I assisted emerging farmers to assess their land in other ways they could farm and where they could get funding.
“Whenever I worked for the farmers, I would ask for a calf instead of cash from them (at the time time I did not even have a farm) so I would ask them to keep them for me until I got my farm. So they did that until I leased a farm in 2017, fetched the cows and started taking care of them.
“I have lost 10 cows due to drought but the government seemed to have answered my prayers and granted me 16 cows,” Zipho said.
Having overcome their first loss was a blessing but there was no escaping a financial myriad that followed thereafter. Countless doors were slammed in their faces but they never gave up. They continued chasing their dream and tactically faced all challenges by embracing them.
“Challenges- firstly, I have been undermined a lot in the industry, especially with my age. When I used to attend committee meetings I felt inferior because there were just old men who were farmers and looked at me as if I knew nothing.
“The other challenge was the fact that all this farming for me was all practical and I had to be vigilant because I did not want to fail,” added Zipho.
Zipho attributes the fear of failure as one of the reasons why there are fewer women in the livestock farming industry.
“I think I would never find women in this industry because of the hardships we go through in this male-dominated industry. The level of disrespect and undermining would make someone just quit, as much as we are all the same we are still not treated the same because they think we are fragile and soft. But we are more than that- actually we can do more than what men could do given the opportunity.
“I think the only thing that kept me moving is the fact that I understood the nature of agriculture. I remember going to an interview and they took a man rather than me because it was their ‘culture’ to only employ men,” she lamented.
The twins draw their strength from family and the village headman who has been very supportive in their initiative.
“The support from my family, my fellow farmers and my headman has pulled me through my struggles trying to achieve my goal,” Zipho stated.
When all has been said and done, the business buddies still face challenges. But just how do they cope as twins in business considering that partners often butt heads?
“Working with my twin is amazing because she is the only person who believed in my dream before it even started and has given me the push every time I wanted to give up. We may fight a lot, but she does understand how my mind works and could put me at ease, and as twins we both have different strengths and we complement each other on that.
“Even if I were to die one day, she knows how I would want to run the company and what my wishes are,” divulged the go-getter.
Her wise words reflect the epitome of success engraved in her heart. The twin sisters intend to embark on other lucrative ventures within the livestock farming industry.
“What attracted me to livestock? To be honest, livestock is way more manageable than any other enterprise. I don’t focus only on livestock, as I also farm crops.” Soon, Zipho said they would start poultry farming too and the twins may dip their toes in dairy production after that: “I am very curious about diary farming and I want to be a black female dairy farmer.
So I’m looking into that as well,” said Zipho. On a parting note, Zipho professed that she would like to see more women setting up livestock enterprises mainly because beef is in high demand and women could achieve a lot under odd stakes.
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