Women in Agriculture: Zanele Twala - founder and MD, Pink is Green Enterprise

Zanele Twala of Pink is Green Enterprise began her farming career after landing a job on a farm. Since the farm was at its earliest stages, the experience provided the best opportunity for everyone involved to learn since they were mentored from seed to harvest. Through this experience, Zanele was able to gain a passion and a deeper understanding for farmers.

After seeing the amazing work that the team on the farm was doing, Zanele wondered why there were not more young women farming in Hammanskraal. 

"Many young people are interested in farming, but they don't know how to begin and even wonder if a woman can succeed doing this," she says. "To overcome these challenges, I decided to own my own farm."

 Even so, she admits that growing up this was not the path that she envisioned for herself. 

"My childhood dream was to be a lawyer, but I dropped out after only one year," she says. "I dropped out to study something related to agriculture and entrepreneurship. I later took on jobs as a cashier, and later a merchandiser." 

While farming knowledge might have skipped a generation with her parents, her great grandmother planted sunflower, had goats and pigs on the same land she is using today, something she's very proud of. 

Farming Journey 

Pink is Green Enterprise was established in Hammanskraal in 2017 and owns four hectares of land. For Zanele, Pink is Green Enterprise didn't require a great deal of investment to get started. Zanele used the money she earned from producing cabbages to purchase two pigs for R1200.  

Zanele says raising goats and pigs was the fulfillment of a dream. 

Since the beginning of my farm career, I have wanted to raise livestock since I enjoy working with them. I decided to keep growing cabbage since I knew I would have to prune it, and the leaves would immediately be fed to the livestock."

Among Zanele's duties at the farm as the owner and manager is raising pigs, goats, and growing cabbages conventionally with the help of six seasonal employees.  Her perspective is that pigs are territorial while goats are more manageable. 

"My pigs and goats live in separate structures. They hardly ever see each other, only hearing each other's sounds. Once the goats give birth, I don't have to check up on them often to see if they have slept on the kids or not, unlike the pigs." 

Usually, livestock animals are sweet and affectionate. The hardest part of Zanele's job is when she must slaughter them. 

"Despite how emotionally attached I get to livestock quickly, I have learned to be pragmatic and remember that this is business," she says. "And the most satisfying part is seeing all my livestock well-fed so they can sell well." 

Zanele explains that she chose conventional farming because it increases food production and allows her to grow more crops. 

"The most popular products we sell are pigs," she says. "Pigs are popular because people love pork meat and a lot of young people are now venturing into piggeries so we also sell them for breeding purposes."

Among the challenges Zanele has faced is learning that pigs are not always reliable mothers to their young. 

"Dealing with the untimely death of my animals is one of my biggest challenges," she says. "Finding all your piglets have died because their mommy slept on top of them is heartbreaking. And raising a female pig for slaughter, only to find her mated with a male pig is also stressful."

Modern Farm Marketing

Like most modern farmers, she uses social media to market, advertise, and grow her client base and business. In his experience as an owner of a farm, Zanele knows how important networking, communication, advertising, and financial management are. 

"I must keep records so I know whether the strategies I'm using are bringing in more business or not. It's essential to know whether your business is profitable or not," she says," as well as to be realistic about your business expectations."

Right now, her goal is to build a fence that covers her entire land to keep her animals safe. 

"I was forced to use the small part of the land because we don't have a fence to cover the entire land yet," she says. 

Advice for Farmers

Though she has no mentors and relies heavily on her previous experience, Zanele says she has been praised for her courage and initiative since she began farming. Her advice to women who would like to follow in her footsteps is to go for it. 

It may not be easy, but that doesn't mean it can't be done", she says. "The best way to succeed is to do research, network with other farmers, and believe in yourself when no one believes in you."

Furthermore, Zanele recommends that wannabe farmers balance their passions with education. 

"If you don't have the necessary skills and education to run a farming business and comprehend the seasons of farming, you won't be able to run your farming business effectively," she says.

She also believes that the government can play a role in encouraging more women to enter the sector. 

"If the government could make land and financial support accessible to women, especially to small-scale farmers, then it would be a great help," she says.

Parting Words

When she is not working Zanele spends time researching ways to improve her business. 

"I am always seeking new ways to improve my business as well as interacting with other farmers and spending time with my daughter," she says. "As my daughter grows, I can see her taking over the farm; she's always observant and hands-on, and she's also fond of goats."

Her future plans are to expand her operations. 

"Currently, I am concentrating on building a fence around the entire farming land so we can expand and create permanent jobs while improving structures for our livestock," she says.

You can connect with Zanele via Facebook.