Agribusiness entrepreneur Leeko Mokoena has been named one of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans (a list of notable South Africans under the age of 35) for 2016.
Mokoena was selected from 1 000 entries and is one of six in the ‘environment’ category.
She is the founder of Made with Rural, a company that helps small-scale farmers create economies of scale through group buying and selling. This makes it easier for farmers to access markets. The company’s mobile app, Go Rural, enables producers to access industry information and track sales.
Mokoena established the company when she noticed that young South Africans were no longer interested in farming. Growing up in a village near Mahikeng, she had seen how every household had a food garden or communal crop field which guaranteed food security for many families.
However, this changed as people in her community became too old to work and passed away. The generation that inherited their land did not want to farm and the land was left fallow.
Through her business, Mokoena is changing negative perceptions of farming. She believes that seeing evidence of new and successful farming businesses throughout the value chain will encourage more young people to work in the sector.
One of her projects is to revive failed government farming initiatives.
“My thinking is that we should revisit the failed or struggling projects and check why they failed and help fix that instead of continuing to fund more of the same,” she says. Using state funding and support from the department of agriculture, she helps farmers to obtain tools and seed to bring fallow land back into production.
“I’m very passionate about the change that I know agriculture can bring to bleak situations, to villages that have no economic activity, but are rich in natural resources like land and water. I have seen agriculture change my family’s life,” says Mokoena.
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