Farm manager’s success an inspiration to youth

MPHO Nemukula realised from a very young age that she wanted to be a farmer. Entering the male-dominated agricultural industry was no easy feat, but her love of and passion for farming has contributed to her success as a poultry farm manager.

Nemukula (34), who works as an area manager for Sovereign Foods in Uitenhage, said that despite the many challenges facing the youth of today, from being victims of crime, unemployment, substance abuse and peer pressure, they should find something that they love and go after their dreams.

Nemukula, like many other South Africans, recently took time on Youth Day to honour the Soweto schoolchildren who died in 1976 on a day that changed the course of South Africa’s history.

“Youth Day is very important for me.

“I appreciate the lives that were lost in order for me to get a quality education and to be where I am today,” she said.

Her messages of inspiration to the youth are to “be true to yourself, what you think is what you become, and lastly don’t try to fit in, but try to be unique”.

Nemukula was born in Nzhelele Village in Limpopo Province. With three brothers, she admitted to growing up as a tomboy.

“Having grown up with my three brothers, I realised very early in life that gender shouldn’t matter and that I can do anything that I love doing. In high school I learned about agriculture and decided to get involved in this male-dominated industry.”

She started working as a trainee student at Sovereign Foods 10 years ago.

From there she became a farm supervisor. Thereafter she was promoted to a successful farm manager. This was followed by another promotion to a senior farm manager.

Today, she is an area manager responsible for the management of three farms and over 140 000 broiler breeder chickens. “Sovereign Foods helped to further my education by investing in my enrolment in a management development programme at NMU Business School.

“I graduated last year. This programme has helped me a lot as a young female leader.

“I have learned a lot about management skills, how to deal with or lead any group regardless of age or whether they are men or women,” she said.

Despite her successes her career has not been without its challenges.

After completing her studies at Tshwane University, she thought she was strong enough to handle the agricultural sector. However, she learned the hard way just how difficult the industry can be.

“I was a young woman leading older men. This was really challenging and still is.

“Men tend to undermine your authority and challenge your skills.

“I overcame this through the support from my team and the company values. The leadership course that I completed has also been really helpful in dealing with these challenges.

“I love my team, especially my boss, Nathan Smith. I wouldn’t even call him a ‘boss’ but he is my coach, mentor, and a friend.”

She encourages the youth to consider farming as a career.

“Farming is a very good career that the youth, including women should consider. There are not enough women in this industry.

“To pursue a career in farming you should love it first. One needs to graduate with a diploma or degree in agriculture, coupled with a management or leadership diploma,” she noted.

Her advice for women and youth who want to enter a male-dominated field is that “nothing is impossible. If you love farming, go for it. We can actually make it a female dominated field in a few years.”

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