It was so noticeable; it was so obvious to any visitor at the National Agricultural Show that women were hardly part of the goings-on.
Not only women farmers but women exhibitors from are areas were conspicuous by their absence.
One thing any visitor could also immediately pick up at the Fairground is that you do not achieve anything of excellent value in life if you do not have the passion and commitment to work hard for it.
That was the message that came out from the exhibition. It was like being served gallons of inspiration daily for a whole week!
The first person that caught my eye was Kenanao Pasela, a 27-year-old Motswana woman who runs a farm with her boyfriend in a place called Sunny Side Farm, just 5 kilometers from Otse.
She caught my attention for one reason only; she was the only woman in the whole exhibition who was so hands on in displaying real love for a job that seems to be male dominated.
“I am so lucky to have met my boyfriend almost three years ago; he has always loved this life and because of the love that we have between us I automatically took an interest in what he does. Since then my love for farming grew tremendously and is still growing,” said Pasela.
From the lengthy conversation I had with her, I started wondering why women generally do not show as much interest in farming as men do.
And there was no representation of women by any of the local Non Governmental Organisations who are constantly crying out for women’s involvement in a lot of such rewarding activities.
There were so many stalls for organizations that play lesser roles in farming but none of the gender issue focused NGOs were present.
Another inspiring moment for me had to be the time that I spent with Thebe and Thapelo Setlalekgosi.
These are 34-year-old twin brothers from Mookane Village who had very impressive cattle on display.
One of the cattle won the grand price in its category.
“As little boys, Thapelo and I watched our grandmother passionately involved in rearing cattle. She had very little education and never went to school to learn anything to do with farming, yet she managed to raise her whole family with the money she made from cattle. She gave all her children a decent upbringing,” Thebe said.
The two men continued to explain that as youngsters growing up in such a family they had a lot of respect for farmers, attributing a lot of their success to the farming spirit that was so dominant in their lives from that early age. Like many of us, Thebe and Thapelo went through formal education but only until O’levels, not because they were not intelligent but, they said, because their passion was not aligned with conventional academics.
“I remember back when I was growing up,” said Thapelo, “my peers were busy solving mathematical equations, you stood a better chance of catching me reading a farmer’s magazine or even away at the cattle post looking after livestock than doing Mathematics.”
It was inspiring to hear them admitting to farming on communal land not on those big trendy ranches.
“When you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and have the right kind of commitment to put towards working hard to see your goals materialize, you see obstacles as stumbling blocks rather than a reason to give up and slide into failure,” said Thebe.
I also spent quality time with 35-year-old Kaswika Mannathoko, a typical example of a well travelled academic who owns a farm, Western Sandveld, 200 kilometres west of Mahalapye.
When I meet and talk to people like him, I once again wonder why young people in Botswana have to be pleaded with and coxed to go into farming.
Mannathoko is in possession of a Marketing and Business Bachelor of Arts Degree from a very reputable university. To my understanding, many companies would find somebody like him a valuable asset.
Instead, Mannathoko said he made the decision to be self-employed, seeing farming as both a lucrative business opportunity and a golden ticket to spending a lot of time in the great outdoors.
He jumped at the first opportunity he saw to get involved in the business.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do, did a lot of research where I felt my knowledge was limited and worked out a winning business plan, the kind of business plan that would have made CEDA look silly to not invest in my venture. Since I received the loan, I have focused all my efforts in seeing to it that I exceed the target in paying them back. I’m working towards repaying my loan in less time than I am expected to and so far so good,” he said.
It can only be inspiring to see that such determined and forward-looking people do indeed exist among us.
Fortunately, the show is an annual event.
We can only have faith in the organizers of the event to give us an even better show next year.
Maybe their first priority next year will be to work towards more involvement of women.