Why be the middleman if you could be the source? This is what former street vendor Kerotse Lekabe asked herself when she saw the potential to be a farmer in her rural village of Pella in the North West province of South Africa.
In 2004, Lekabe bought seedlings to start planting vegetables with the help of her late husband. She planted cabbage, spinach, beetroot, onions, and tomatoes on one hectare of land.
While her own family used to farm, Lekabe says she did not get involved in a lot of farming activity in her home because she did not stay with her parents at that time. All of this changed when she was a hawker.
“I really wanted to plant and sell and not to become a middleman. That is why I left the hawker business and came to farm, so I can sell to the hawkers.
“For two years I did my farming on the one-hectare farm. In 2008 I increased to two hectares because I included more produce. Also, the demand was becoming high at the time, so I had to keep up.”
Steadily growing as a farmer
Lekabe says in 2013 the government donated a tractor and water tanks to her farm due to a serious water challenge, and her project had growth potential. Government also assisted her with installing solar panels, boreholes, and trailers.
“I kept on increasing by a hectare until 2018 when I had six hectares of land. The same year I decided to no longer increase my hectares but rather work with what I had.
“Through my hard work, in the same year of 2018, I was a runner up at the best female farmer entrepreneur awards,” she says.
Lekabe explains her business has been growing despite the many challenges she experienced.
“In the peak of the business booming and getting lots of clients, which meant hands needed to be on the deck, my husband got sick. My focus was divided in taking care of him and running the business.
“In 2020 he lost his life. He was my business partner and someone I looked up to. I had to run the business by myself while being a mother to three boys. Luckily one of my sons, Ishmael, went to study agriculture at Potchefstroom College so that he could assist me. He developed an interest when he was seeing me working.”
Ishmael graduated with a diploma in agriculture and is working for the family as a driver who delivers their produce to the market.
“I have been fortunate in my village to become a supplier of vegetables to at least 10 schools, Pick n Pay, Choppies supermarket, hawkers and community members.
“While this is a step in the right direction, I want to increase the market that I am currently supplying to because I believe I have the capacity to do so.”
Read the full story of Lekabe and her son’s farming business on Food For Mzansi.
Get the FoodForAfrika.com newsletter: Your bi-weekly take on the news, inspiration and agri innovation from the united voice of Africa’s food growers.