Matome Cynthia Mokgobu, 29, started a little garden in her backyard in the Limpopo village of Bochum, South Africa, five years ago. Today, she now owns a three-hectare farm where she grows spinach, butternut squash, and cabbage for local and Gauteng markets in South Africa.
Matome Cynthia Mokgobu has become one of Limpopo’s most remarkable young farmers, inspired by her father’s love for farming and his family. Despite the difficulties she meets, she persists in her pursuit of achievement. Mokgobu was born in Gemarke village near the Limpopo town of Bochum. It was there that she saw her father, Moloko Johannes Mokgobu, working the soil and supporting him with the farm’s day-to-day activities.
Her father operated a grocery in the village as well as a goat and cow farm. As a result, dad taught Mokgobu and her siblings about farming and business from an early age. Mokgobu recounts growing up in a loving family that encouraged her in whatever she did.
Everything was good growing up, my parents provided for us and also took care of the supermarket and liquor store they had. My parents were in business ever since I was born, so I knew about business from a very young age. They also used to farm during rainy seasons and during school holidays, we would go to the farm and help to weed, harvest, and chase away any domestic animals that tried to get in, said Mokgobu.
She says her parents had a huge influence on her life and business journey, and her father used to say to her: “I’m not raising a child that will go look for a job, I raise bosses”.
Everything changed, however, when her parents’ enterprises failed, making life a little more difficult for the Mokgobu family. “Everything went from good to bad when our family businesses were boycotted in the village and for seven years, we struggled a lot as a family. Until my father went to Gauteng to look for a job,” Mokgobu recalls.
“It was very difficult for my parents to also pay for our university studies, so I got a horticulture internship in Joburg. I used some of the money to pay for my fees, [and] also got a bursary that helped.”
Mokgobu studied science-related subjects in high school, and the following matric, she pursued a diploma in ornamental horticulture at the University of South Africa (Unisa). Mokgobu began her farming career in 2016 after deciding to forge her own path. “From my first year, I was volunteering at the South African National Botanical Gardens and got my first internship at Garden World in Honeydew in Joburg, and my last internship was at Pebbles Plant. I felt I had enough practical experience to go home and do my own thing.”
She presently manages Mosibudi Trading Enterprise, crop production and agricultural company specialising in butternut, cabbage, spinach, mustard, and potato cultivation. Boxer Superstores, the Bochum market, Spar Save More, the Joburg market, and Polokwane fresh produce, as well as street vendors, sell her items.
“Farming chose me. I was born to be a farmer. I love farming because I find peace in it, it is my happy place and I enjoy spending my time working on the land or just sitting and looking at the crops, happy and green. This gives me so much joy,” she says.
Mokgobu currently employs three seasonal workers and another nine to assist in the planting of potatoes as part of a Potato SA small grower programme that she initiated last year. Her motto in life is that hard work beats talent, she adds. “But when you have both like me is a bonus,” says a proud Mokgobu. “Hard work pays, even if it will take you 10 years. If you don’t stop working hard, you will definitely reach your goal.”
Challenges inevitably arise in any business, and for Mokgobu, it is a lack of implements and sufficient infrastructure. “Without implements, the job becomes very hard to do and very difficult. Without proper infrastructure, we can’t reach other markets like Freshmarket and Woolworths because we don’t have a packhouse nor a food and safety certificate, so our compliance does not meet the requirements,” she explains.
She pledges, though, not to let it hold her back. Mokgobu inspires other young people to follow their aspirations, based on her experience in a successful farming company.
“Each and every one of us was born with different purposes in life. So, if we can find our purpose in life, we will succeed. Work hard, focus and be consistent, and also do things that are in line with what you want to do and chase things that add value to your lives,” says Mokgobu.