Women in Agriculture: There is no limit to what you can achieve in life - Mathulare Ashler Mathikge, Vuyolwethu Farming

Mathulare Ashler Mathikge is the operations manager for Vuyolwethu Farming, where she serves on the board of directors. She joined the group as an advisor in 2020 and became its director in 2021. Mathulare has experience in agricultural training and runs a company called Mathu's Veggies that specialises in agro-processing. In this interview, she discusses her role and women in agriculture.

Briefly tell us about Vuyolwethu Farming Cooperative? When was it started? What is about? And how many people are involved? 

Vuyolwethu is an agricultural co-op that is a joint venture between the city of Joburg and GDARD. The farm, which is located in the Eikenhof Agri-park, has seven members, including two women. The cooperative was established in 2016 currently occupies eight hectares of land.

What interested you in farming?

I have been in the farming space for 7 years. Volunteering with a rooftop farming initiative in the Johannesburg CBD began my passion for agriculture, and I later enrolled at Potchefstroom College of Agriculture in the North-West for a diploma in mixed farming, focusing on vegetable production. 

Vuyolwethu gives me the chance to combine my two interests: my love of nature and my interest in business economics. It will be very satisfying to bridge these two worlds.

What does your role entail?

It's a dynamic role, as I am the treasurer and the operations manager. Therefore, I plan the whole organisation and oversee the tasks that need to be performed.

How many people do you manage?

Vuyolwethu members are also the workers, and they are responsible for their own management, although sometimes temporary workers are hired, so there are always six or more workers on the field.

How does your work at Vuyolwethu Farming Cooperative help advance opportunities for women in the agri industry? 

There is certainly a need for some diversity in this industry. Hopefully my role at Vuyolwethu can inspire people to understand that women can handle physical activities and can also assume leadership roles.

Please Support Our Work By Donating Through PayPal.

What keeps you excited about working in agriculture?

The endless possibilities of agriculture will surely increase with the growing population, which follows the need for more food, so I definitely look forward to farming in the future. Moreover, I'm a millennial and was born in the digital age, so I look forward to using aggrotech precession farming, a concept I strongly believe in.

Why do you think the agricultural sector need more women in the first place? 

In any structure, be it business or social, I believe gender equality is essential. I never want to be considered less capable of anything in my life, especially when it comes to farming. 

And why is diversity so important?

In order to ensure food security, diversity is essential so that all citizens have the opportunity to participate. It has been proven that women make better leaders due to their positions in society. As women, we are better at making decisions because of our empathetic nature. Moreover, we have the authority of a disciplinarian that is rooted in our motherly qualities.

Our government has been pushing for quotas. Do you agree with this type of policy to encourage better female representation on boards and senior roles? Why or why not? 

In my opinion, this is a good move rooted in our history of equality and the fact that they are trying to level the playing field. There are many trailblazing women making great strides in other industries where women were once forbidden to venture. I believe women in agriculture are not as unfamiliar as people think; even in rural communities, women are mainly responsible for tending to the land, so to me this feels like our rightful place. 

What has your job taught you about success? 

There is no limit to what you can achieve in life. No matter what your goals are, if you put the effort in and plan ahead, you can achieve them. You reap what you sow.

What do you know now that you wish you could have told your younger self when you were starting out in your career?

Keep at it, you’ve made a great choice!

What do you do to nourish your body, mind and soul? 

Whenever I need to rest, I do so. In addition, I also dedicate time to my fitness regimen and family; spending time with them grounds me.

We all sometimes have the inner critic. How do you tame it and focus on your growth?

I think my inner critic is my strength, I always push myself to always do my best I pride myself in excellence and agriculture is quite competitive mental strength is equal to your physical strength.