Traditionally in Africa, women made sure homes have food, that included working and managing the backyard gardens and lands whilst men were at either at the cattle posts or working in the mines. Over time the phenomenon gradually eroded due to sophistication. Men and women are now enjoying vocations that are selected based on their preferences. However for one, Babui Nyepetsi has turned the old leaf into a modern way of farming with focus on horticulture. She specializes in horticultural business and she is confident that as long as Africa cannot sustainably feed its people, the market to viability is wide open.
Fresh from an agribusiness conference that was held in Rwanda a fortnight ago, Nyepetsi sat with us to further understand her undying desire to becoming the next bigshot in African’s horticultural business space. With the support of her business partner and mentor Mr Matale and her father, to date, Nyepetsi has cultivated land of about 15 hectors. She tell it all, from loses, perseverance’s, plans and the future of her know how in the agribusiness sector.
How are you finding farming as a young women?
Faming is like a drug, once the bug is with you then you will keep coming. I went into farming with the attitude that we will make it. So far i have managed two farms, this will include even managing the staff, finding the market for our produce, maintenance of our machinery, So farming every day is different. There is no antidote that you know everyday will be like this. Our produce has been vegetables like cabbage and lettuce.
Two farms in a short space, surely it shows the market is there?
We are still importing vegetables and that’s a sign that we have to produce more. And the hard work you put pay off ultimately. However one thing that farming has taught me in the short spell is that days differ, we are in Botswana and the effects of global warming are hitting us hard. One day, you are making profits and the next day due to weather you can be bankrupt. So like any business you have to be prepared for all conditions.
That is scary, have you experienced where your produce was hit by a weather condition, maybe?
Its still the most bitter pill to swallow. When i upgraded my first 3 hector farm which was in Mochudi i then got another 12 hector farm on rental in Oliphant’s Drift, about 80km from Mochudi. Ideally, the 3Ha was going to finance the second farm expenses so i drifted all the profits into the second project with hope that it will pay off, we had about 50 000 heads of cabbage and as lady luck was not on our side, the first farm, our financer was hit by frost. It was not that bad until the second hot in a short while. It was hot in the afternoon and extra cold in the evening and morning, thus the produce rotting. It was a stressful ordeal (sigh).
And did you get any assistance?
I had to think on how my staff will be paid, how we going to pay a P12000 rent, how we are fixing machinery such as water pumps and all. Nevertheless because i have united staff that now know the management routine of a farm, i temporarily left them to seek an 8-5 to cushion our debts. And here we are, doing just fine.
From your experience and lessons, how are you still holding up?
I did allude to you that, once the bug had hit, there is no point of return. As a youth i made sure i learn the sector. I can say i am the pivot between small scale farmer and the retail market. I am having suppliers wanting to sell to retailers and retailers vice versa asking for produce respectively. So i am furthering my knowledge in marketing agribusiness, it is a lucrative business and i encourage other youth to join forces and sustain the business.
You recently attended the agribusiness conference in Kigali, Rwanda, take us through it…
It was an eye opener. I always had a desire to take on Africa with horticulture. however sometimes its the questions that we asks ourselves instead of doing. As long as as a continent we struggling to supply ourselves, we have a market. The conference in Rwanda was a networking sessions, i have contacts from South Africa, Zambia and rest of Africa. We have a lot of projects in the pipeline and they are very lucrative and with that need a lot of hard work. We are opening a franchise in the near future with rest of my network base.
That a big opportunity to be in that space, young farmers might be asking themselves, where and how do these opportunity come about, how did you land in Rwanda
I was once part of the Pan African Parliament discussing agriculture as a solution to youth unemployment. I think that is where registered and i then was on a pool of women with interest in agriculture.
You are dreaming of taking on Africa in the agribusiness…
Simply because our continent is still wide open in the market, from farmers, retails and the whole food chain is awaiting with opportunities surely. As the youth we just need to collaborate to make it happen.
Thank you for your time.