Smangele Maria Gumede has won the "Female Entrepreneur of the Year" award. Photo: Supplied
DURBAN - A KwaZulu-Natal female farmer's passion to succeed in the male-dominated farming industry paid dividends when she bagged the coveted "Female Entrepreneur of the Year" award. 

The awards is organised by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. 

The KZN Female Entrepreneur Awards recognises the outstanding work of women in the agriculture sector and their achievement in breaking the glass ceiling.

Smangele Maria Gumede, aged 56, is from the Nkwalini Valley near eShowe north of KZN. She is also a wife and a mother to nine children.

Gumede said her inspiration to farm came from her granny who taught her how to plant sunflowers, sorghum and mielies. 

"In 2007, Tongaat Hulett was appointed by the government to be our strategic partner at Intathakusa Farm in Nkwalini Valley where we harvest sugarcane and citrus. The sugarcane that is harvested on this farm is supplied to Tongaat Hulett" said Gumede. 

Gumede and her husband have been farming sugarcane and citrus at Intathakusa Farm for the past 10 years while their son helps with harvesting cane in the Amatikulu area.

"Much of my experience was gained when living on Intathakusa Farm, although a mentor from Tongaat Hulett imparted invaluable knowledge on how to apply fertiliser and herbicides; the process of irrigation and soil sampling." said Gumede.

She said she would be thrilled to have her nine children join the family farming team once hey completed their studies at university. 

"I am thrilled to have won the award out of hundreds of farmers in KZN. The highlight if the evening was meeting and engaging with Themba Mthembu, KZN MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development. I also had the opportunity to meet various officials form other provinces" said Gumede.

Gumede said that some of the challenges that she faced along the way was a lack of readily available funding, outdated equipment, maintenance of the farm, drought and heavy storms.

Moreover like most farmers she has difficulties with getting reliable irrigation equipment, cable theft and market price fluctuation in the sugar industry. 

Gumede plans on investing in good quality tractors and equipment. She also plans to build an office and increase the production of sugarcane and citrus crops to enable more people to be gainfully employed. 

She encourages young women to strive towards their dreams, be active and take a hands-on approach. 

Gumede and her husband also thanked Tongaat Hulett for their free training sessions and for encouraging them to pursue their dreams.