Letsema Project - Women In Farming

Jeanette Molefe’s urbanated move into farming

Jeanette is one of many young people in the Botswana who start off into one profession while their passion lingers in their minds like an itch needing to be scratched.

Jeanette Molefe, a young vibrant farmer, started off pursuing a accounting profession, and left her institution after acquiring an advance diploma knowing that she was in a course that she had little interest in, and knew that her heart was in farming.

Growing up, she would witness her grandmother handling livestock such as goats and cows. Those became memories upon her grandmother’s passing, but simultaneously became a legacy she wanted to live on.

While farming was still on her mind as a student, she placed her allowance money aside and used it as seed capital to start her business. She used her allowance savings to buy equipment,and the Youth Development Fund to purchase livestock. She initially had 5 goats and the grant enabled her to buy 55 goats as she set up shop in a small plot in Thamaga. With the farm in its sixth year operating, Jeanette has a breeding stock of 30 goats, 15 kids, 15 weaners and 15 castrates.

Alhough Jeanette is happy to pursue her passion, she still deals with a lack of working capital. The bootstrap method of scaling your business in farming is not the most effective, as livestock are vulnerable to climate change issues, such as drought and flooding.

She realized this vulnerability when she lost 75 of breeding stock, 10 castrates and 2 bucks within 3 months due to heavy rainfalls in Thamaga. This also caused an outbreak of infectious diseases that affected the livestock heavily. She recalls a time where 3-5 goats would die in a day. The lack of working capital  has made it difficult to create imediate health interventions for her livestock.

Additionally, the land she is on belongs to her family, which creates limitations on business development and commercialization. While she has been requesting land for the past three years, and following processes, she hopes that 2020 will be the year for her in land ownership.

Interestingly, she has found other means in growing her farm business, particularly with other women farmers. While she works as a full time farmer, she has managed to diversify the animal stock through agreement in trade with other farmers. She now has guinea fowls, ducks and rabbits in her farm. Through this diverse stock portfolio, Jeanette envisions 500 breeding stock by 2020. She is currently working with CEDA in land acquisition, and believes she’ll be able to further scale up her farm through larger land.

In Jeanette’s view, young people should tap into farming, it’s not only profitable, but additionally creates an ease in mind in being one with nature. The farm has provided Jeanette with a more holistic outlook on life and way of living. It sets an ease in her mental health through its inherent calmness in nature, while being a space where her, and other women farmers get to meet and relax occasionally. In Jeanette’s view, the business of farming is not all business, and taps into other areas of life. She has found the farm not only to be a passionate space of work, but additionally a refuge of relaxation, learning about animal behaviour and connecting with herself through nature.