By Phesheya Mkhonta
Inside Biz sat down with Mpumalanga Zwane, Communications Officer for the Woman Farmer Foundation (WFF), to find out more about the Youth Farmer of The Year Competition.
IB: Can you give us a brief background about the Youth Farmer of The Year Competition, and, the inspiration behind its establishment?
MZ: The Woman Farmer Foundation began as a competition (The Woman Farmer of the Year Competition) in 2007 after Sonia Paiva, an award-winning self-made businesswoman, endeavoured to uplift other women’s economic standing in Eswatini so they may also run successful businesses.
The competition is about encouraging women to pursue excellence in their farming ventures, and uplift other women. Upon seeing the success of the competition which gave women farmers access to agricultural inputs and incredible networks, Paiva registered the foundation in 2010. The Foundation has done a lot of work to increase women’s participation and economic empowerment in the agricultural space.
In essence, the Woman Farmer of The Year Competition gave birth to the Youth Farmer of The Year Competition and the latter is aimed at empowering young female farmers in the country.
IB: How long has the competition been running?
MZ: The youth category of the competition has been running since 2017. We launched it in this manner this year to really push for youth participation, and to drive the idea that agriculture is not just something young people do when they are unemployed or as a hobby.
It is important to clarify that the adult category will continue as usual and we still want to see women farmers participating and showing support. However, our purpose is to encourage young women to get into agriculture and for them to know that agriculture can be commercially viable.
The competition also opens doors for youth winners. For example our second-place winner in 2022, Makhosazana Mngomethulu was awarded a scholarship after being seen among the Top 10. We have also seen how entry into the competition builds a culture of excellence among farmers, as women and youth strive to build up their businesses in order to place higher in the competition. Our 2022 Adult first prize winner, Nomsa Mngomethulu, is an excellent example of this. She shared how she sought mentorship and guidance from her peers to improve her business, going from sixth position to first place.
IB: What is the competition’s eligibility criteria?
MZ: Entrants need to be a female youth of 18- 35 in age, or for the adult category, be 36 years old and above. Secondly, they need to operate their agribusiness on Eswatini Nation Land. Lastly, they need to have been in operation for a year or more.
IB: What are some of the key traits, skills, or outputs you are looking for in a Youth Farmer of the Year Competition?
MZ: A large portion of the judging process is dedicated to the strength of the enterprise- looking at how well the farmer manages their business (65%). Then we look at how well the farmer manages the area they are farming- their home management skills (25%). Lastly, to promote women in leadership, we would love to see female farmers creating a positive impact in their communities (10%)
IB: Tell us about the prizes on offer and the benefits of entering the competition.
MZ: Adult farmers stand a chance to win prizes worth over E100, 000.00, while the youth stand to win over E50, 000.00 in prizes. Youth and women farmers who enter the competition enter into our database and have the opportunity to benefit from other projects run by the foundation such as market linkage facilitation and various training.
Thank you For Your Time!
It has been a pleasure.
For more information on the competition contact the Women Farmer Foundation at 7602 7207. You can also visit the website: https://bit.ly/m/womanfarmerprograms
Competition entry forms are available from various strategic points such as Women Farmer Foundation Offices, NAMBOARD offices, Ministry of Agriculture Regional Offices, Regional Development Areas (RDAs), Eswatini National Youth Council Manzini, Khuba Traders and Farm Chemical outlets.