By Nokunceda Magagula
The journey towards hosting the Woman Farmer Awards is in full preparation mode. Having received just over 300 applications from women and youth farmers, a panel of judges, representing various organizations, including the Ministry of Agriculture, parastatals, and the private sector, embarked on a nationwide journey to assess and score the applicants, resulting in the selection of the Top 15 finalists in both the Adult Woman and Youth categories.
The competition has now advanced to the second phase of judging, where the final Top 10 will be chosen for each category. During this phase, applicants will have the opportunity to showcase why they deserve to be the next Woman or Youth Farmer of the Year. In an interview, Sonia Paiva, the Director of the Women Farmer of the Year Awards, emphasized that the competition’s vision is to provide a platform for women and youth farmers to excel in their agribusinesses. She stressed that this event is more than just a competition; it is a powerful networking platform.
The ultimate goal is to ensure that female farmers receive the recognition and visibility they rightly deserve for their significant contributions to the economy and the well-being of the country. To address youth unemployment and the stigma against farming among young people, the director highlighted the foundation’s commitment to empowering young farmers. She said, “We want to see young farmers driving agriculture. They must think big. Why limit themselves to farming at a local level when they can expand their enterprises to an international level?”
Sonia Paiva also pointed out the potential opportunities provided by the African Continental Free Trade Area, emphasizing the importance of encouraging women and young people to enter this space. She noted that past competitions have produced board members, exporters, and leaders in their respective fields. The power of this platform offers winners the opportunity to elevate themselves.
Regarding the competition’s criteria, the director emphasized that they are looking for winners who possess the drive to succeed and uplift others, emphasizing that entering the competition is a significant indication of that drive. The platform unites female farmers and major stakeholders through the award ceremony and a networking lunch, opening doors for winners to utilize this platform effectively.
Furthermore, Sonia Paiva encouraged all farmers not to shy away from innovation and to explore new approaches. She advised, “Seek climate-adaptive methods, diversify your enterprise, and stay updated on changes and opportunities in the industry. We love to see self-motivated winners, individuals with curious minds eager to learn and implement.”
Sonia Paiva concluded by expressing her passion for developing women and youth in Eswatini. She sees immense potential in these individuals and believes in unleashing that potential. “When you speak of youth, you are already speaking about the future of Eswatini,” she said. “I’ve had my time to establish myself in the business, and now it’s time to pave the way for others to secure their future, not just for themselves, but for the country and the world.”