Where dreams grow – Hlobisile Bathabile Yende puts women farmers on path to success
Farming has always been for people who don’t look like Hlobisile, but she has decided to change the stereotype and bring a whole new cohort of young black women with her on the journey.
Not content with running a successful farm, a degree in criminology and psychology, and a newly written children’s book in publication, Hlobisile Bathabile Yende has opened up her life and home to help other women farmers realise their dreams.
In the third year of studying farming, every student has to do practical training on a working farm. The problem is that there are very few farms that want to open themselves up to training students and even fewer that are willing to take on women students. The perceived risks are too high and the benefits too low.
Hlobisile sees this and, since 2014, she has taken on two full-time students a year, with no financing from the government, to train them in every aspect of farm life, right up to the high-end management of the farm. And, in order to create a safe space for them, she lets them live on the farm, as part of the family.
We try to be human and be kind to them; when you involve and value them they will also look after you.
“I wanted them to do it with ease because it is a passion of mine. They couldn’t afford daily transport and being on the farm full-time made it easier and safer. This is us paying it forward”
Of course, it is a reciprocal relationship – she gets another two workers on the farm, but she pays them as proper workers while also training them. She also knows that she is learning from them. She provides practical experience and they pass on the latest advances in the technical information that they are learning at university.
“We try to be human and be kind to them; when you involve and value them they will also look after you.”
The most important thing for Hlobisile is that she is setting up these young women for success. She takes them along to networking events and introduces them to people who could further their careers. She is giving them a foot in the door and onto the first rung of a ladder that, as women in farming, and black women at that, they have historically found it very hard to access.
Hlobisile comes from a family of farmers. She was raised on a farm by her father who was raised on a farm by his father. She is intensely passionate about it, something that she clearly gets from her dad who taught her respect, discipline and the craft of farming.
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And now she wants to pass it on to future generations through her book Lethu The Farmer, written about her four-year-old son’s experience learning about farming, and the excitement and responsibility of growing his own food.
At 28 years old and 1.6m tall, with long red nails, Hlobisile is not your average farmer. In a profession often seen as poorly paid, dirty work, she stands as an example that managing a successful farm can be a career for a young black woman. Not content with that, she is now studying for her master’s in criminology with the dream of one day being known as “Dr Farmer”. DM
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