Award-winning farmer Smangele Maria Gumede, 56, who lives in Nkwalini Valley, near Eshowe, said her inspiration to farm came from her grandmother who taught her how to plant sunflowers, sorghum and mielies. Picture: Supplied

A KZN woman farmer’s passion to succeed in the male-dominated industry bore spectacular fruit when she bagged the coveted “Female Entrepreneur of the Year” award.

Hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recently, the KZN Female Entrepreneur Awards recognises the outstanding work of women in the agricultural sector and their achievement in breaking through the glass ceiling.

Smangele Maria Gumede, 56, who lives in Nkwalini Valley, near Eshowe, said her inspiration to farm came from her grandmother who taught her how to plant sunflowers, sorghum and mielies.

The proud mother of nine and wife of Sibusiso Gumede believes teamwork relieves much of the strain of supporting a large family.

“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 harvested on this farm is supplied to Tongaat Hulett,” said Gumede.

She said she and her husband benefited from free training sessions provided by the sugar giant, and they were encouraged to pursue their dreams.

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

“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,” added Gumede.

Smangele Maria Gumede.

She said she would be thrilled to have her nine children join the family farming team once they finished university.

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

Further inspiration stems from the job opportunities her farming operations will create, especially for upcoming farmers.


She cited as challenges the lack of readily available funding; outdated equipment; maintenance of the farm; drought and heavy storms; irrigation equipment and cable theft and market price fluctuation in the sugar industry.

Gumede plans to invest in good quality tractors and equipment; build an office and increase production to enable more people to be gainfully employed.

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