Across the globe, International Women’s Day will be observed on 8 March. In 2021 the focus is on the efforts of women and girls around the world to shape a more equal future as well as their contribution to the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Women form the backbone of many rural economies across the globe, and by being part of agriculture, play an important role in poverty reduction and food security.
Globally women comprise between 40 and 78% of the agricultural work force and constitute 60–80% of smallholder farmers. Yet only 15–20% of landholders in sub-Saharan Africa are women. Despite this, women continue to play a significant role in the agricultural sector in South Africa and accounted for roughly a third of South Africa’s new farm jobs.
As farmers, women in subsistence production systems, ensure the survival of millions of people. The World Economic Forum found that female farmers reinvest 90% of the money they earn back into their farms and their communities and thus act as gatekeepers to a better future their communities. They also play a key role in promoting sustainable farming methods and conserving traditional crop knowledge and cultivation practices.
But not all women in agriculture are subsistence or small-holder farmers, or part of the labour force in the industry. Many are actively involved in various positions along the value chain across the agricultural spectrum - commercial producers, processors, scientists, policy makers, input suppliers, research, commercial buying and procurement, or marketing and sales.
In a month that focuses on women and the role that they play in society – it is pertinent that we honour and acknowledge the contributions of mothers and women worldwide and the crucial role they play in agriculture and the impact they have on societies around the world.
In South Africa we are privileged to have women that are part of the Landini family who excel in agriculture. They have a powerful stories to tell about the role that they play in the workplace but also in the broader society. Stories of stewardship, resilience, and leadership.
In the Mpumalanga town of Middelburg, in the heart of the province’s agriculture, Denise Meyer is running the ARGO Tractors SA dealership, Alpha Agri. The dealership not only sells tractors, but also tractor parts, equipment and accessories.
According to Denise, the challenge she puts to all the staff at the dealership is to do their utmost best to make sure that the customer gets the right part, at the right time and at the right price.
Denise cut her teeth in the car industry, but after she was invited for a job interview at a ARGO Tractors dealership in Middelburg, she never looked back. She grew up on a farm in the area and that background and the understanding of the industry, is a great advantage according to her. “I understand the industry and know how things work on a farm. I know how farmers think and this understanding together with my mechanical and agricultural knowledge, forms the basis of our excellent client relations and ultimately, success of the dealership.”
Her advice to young women who wishes to enter the industry, is to work hard and gain knowledge. “If you know your product it will enable you to give good advice and support and that will bring respect. If you deliver on what you promise, you will have the backing of the farmer,” she believes.
As a major role player in the promotion of sustainable agriculture in South Africa, McCormick values the role woman play in agriculture and Argo Tractors SA is proud of the fact that women make up a substantial part of our inclusive and diverse workforce. “We are proud to have so many women making a valuable contribution to our business and the local agricultural sector. I genuinely believe that the key to equal opportunities in the workplace is to allow employees to use their unique skills, talents and strong points. To see women contribute to agriculture on equal footing in our company is extremely rewarding,” says Juanita Pretorius, Distribution Development Manager at Argo Tractors South Africa.
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