Interview with agricultural lawyer, Katlego Ngwane - CEO of Katika Consulting

Katlego Ngwane is the founder and CEO of Katika Consulting. Katli, as she's affectionally known, has a bachelor of laws (LLB) and a PG Dip, Management Principles from Henley. She is passionate about agriculture and sustainability and therefore aims to assist agricultural players in finding value added solutions to their legal compliance needs and challenges. She also hosts Legal Boeremeisie  podcasts on issues related to the agricultural sector. 

She is also the co-founder and still currently a director of Kreamfields, an established waste management company focused on sustainable manufacturing, growing the circular economy and regenerative design of waste material, which she and her co-founder launched as a start-up. In this interview, Katli tells us about her job, from the work itself to the culture and the environment – and why you shouldn't let your gender put you off.

Why agriculture? Did you have a goal to work largely within agriculture issues when you were growing up?

I grew up on a smallholding outside of Rustenburg, where my grandmother did some subsistence farming. We had some livestock, poultry and crops. I always helped her tend to the farm. I  was always fascinated by the methods and passion she had for growing things. My mother had a nursery business and hydroponic farm, which she then sold to the general public. Looking back, it grew my appreciation for the land and what it can produce when one is patient and takes care of it. But to be honest, I did not think I would end up having a career in the agricultural industry.

What about real life versus law school? What did you get trained in, and what was actually useful in your current role?

I studied and graduated with an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) and then went on to do a Postgrad in Management Principles. Real-life is very different from law school because one graduates feeling idealistic and naïve with a very strong belief that you're going to change the world! But in reality, it is not quite like the textbooks. Studying law is practical because it teaches one to think critically and innovatively when looking for solutions for your clients. 

What does your job entail? What are the challenges and benefits of your job?

My job is to educate and assist farmers navigate the legalities, compliance and regulatory requirements of farming. The challenges in what I do is making farmers realise that they will face problems if they do not handle their legal obligations properly from the beginning. Many farmers believe that having land is the only hurdle to cross, but there is a lot of intersectionality. My job is to help them see the bigger picture beyond working the land. 

The benefits are the sense of reward I get when my clients can farm successfully, with all legal necessities in place, knowing that they will not be hindered by anything. Farming is like any business. It has to run properly, and with sound advice, it can be a successful business.

Is there anything you wish that you’d known before you went into agricultural law?

That I should have started ten years ago!! Seriously though, I wish I got into it earlier.  I think there is such a need for skills like my own, especially in the context of our country, where we have a lot of people interested in entering the agricultural industry but not knowing where to start.

How would you compare the financial stability between running your own practice and what we might call a ‘more traditional’ path into the law—say working for a big firm doing contract law?

I consider myself an entrepreneur, so choosing this path was easy for me. I would never say my choice is better than the traditional route. I believe it is a question of personality and what one wants in life. If you love the law, it will be fulfilling to you regardless of the path you choose. I know this sound like a cliché, but when you work hard with determination, financial stability comes, and let's remember that financial stability means different things to different people.

Who has been your greatest support, coach, mentor in your career? How do they help you?

My clients are my biggest mentors because while I am there to assist them legally, they teach me so much about areas of their businesses that normally I would not be exposed to. There are not many people who focus exclusively on what I do, so in terms of coaching, I have to take from different people and entrepreneurs around me, even if they are not necessarily in my industry.

What is it like to work as a woman in this field?

It's really difficult sometimes, given the fact that it is a male-dominated industry. People still hold archaic beliefs that women do not know anything about farming or business. 

There are a lot of opinions out there on closing the gap for females in the Agriculture sector in their entire value chain. What’s your take?

Given the fact that women have historically been excluded from the economy in general, I would love to see more women get involved in the sector and close the gender gap. Women are as skilled and capable of contributing productively to the sector and bring the much-needed freshness of thoughts and ideas.

What skills (soft and technical) do you think a person should have if they want to pursue a position like yours?

Having a law degree certainly helps. You also need to be solution-driven, see things holistically and enjoy meeting different people from different backgrounds.

What advice would you give to young women who are aspiring to be in your role, or who maybe haven't even considered it as a career?

My biggest advice would be that one must have a real interest in the industry and not being doing it because it seems like the next big thing, and then call me!

If you are not working, what do you do to relax?

I love our country, and with so much beauty that surrounds us,  I spend my free time exploring as much of it as I can with my family.

What’s next for you?

Growing my firm, giving back, taking care of my family!

Get in touch with Katli for any consulting service via email or join her on Twitter