Growing up in rural Bizana, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa is where the seeds were sown for Nosindiso Pepu to flourish in the country’s vibrant agricultural sector. Running their family smallholding with her parents and siblings, is where Pepu saw the potential to start a viable career as a crop specialist.
“At home we do a lot of small-scale farming, I loved being on the farm, growing the vegetables, and I knew I would enjoy doing it,” she says. Pepu successfully completed a Bachelor of Technology (BTech) in agricultural crop protection at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Wellington in the Cape Winelands District. A stone’s throw away from where she graduated, Pepu stepped into a new role as part of a graduate programme in 2019. She gradually worked her way up to junior production manager at Indigo Berries, a development on the outskirts of Wellington where they produce internationally competitive blueberry varieties, mainly for the export market.
She is not shy to talk about the difficulties when she took on this job. “Because the industry is male dominated, there were many challenges on farm level. As a young black woman, I did not get the respect from the agricultural workers when I started, but slowly, it changed,” says Pepu.
Over the past four years she has gained the trust from workers on the farm and others in the industry. They no longer questioned her leadership abilities and closing this gap had its perks, which pushed her drive to be a successful young agriculturalist.
Her participation in the Waitrose Foundation People Management Training helped to accelerate her growth in the company. She smiles broadly as she talks about the value of the People Management Training and support to boost her confidence and step into her new role with pride.
With Waitrose Foundation Funding, Pepu together with the farm housing committee, workers committee and other colleagues led the clean energy project of installation of solar panels and solar lights. Power outages, a regular occurrence as the country deals with the on-going energy crisis, posed many risks, but with more visibility and with added safety gates they are feeling more secure.
Pepu proudly highlights the economic empowerment initiative that specifically supports women on the farm to build an additional income stream. Groups of ambitious women are producing safety clothing for the agricultural workers on their farm. The project’s success means that the team can now also offer this service to other network farms in other provinces. Looking to the future, Pepu is eager to grow her current skills and build more experience as an agricultural crop specialist.