A new season of African Farming brings new faces, and one of those is our new presenter, Lindiwe Sithole, who is travelling the length and breadth of the country to speak to Mzanzi’s best black farmers.
A seasoned broadcaster and aspiring farmer herself, Lindiwe will be visiting no less than 13 brand-new farmers in the second season of African Farming. From cattle to sheep, from goats to game, and from vegetables to fruit, Lindiwe will be taking this popular shows’ almost half a million viewers on an extraordinary tour of black farming excellence.
With many years as a lifestyle television presenter and producer at eNCA under her belt, Lindiwe is no stranger to the limelight, having interviewed scores of top celebrities over the years, including Tyler Perry, Usain Bolt, David Beckham, Black Coffee, Caster Semenya and even President Cyril Ramaphosa.
When she got the call to take over as the new African Farming presenter, Lindiwe was more than ready to tackle new challenges. “At the time I was chatting to my mom, Thele, about revisiting our plans to start farming,” she says, laughing.
Hailing from Evaton, near Sebokeng, Lindiwe is no stranger to agriculture. “I grew up in a subsistence-farming homestead. My grandparents owned a plot, where they raised ducks and chickens, and grew vegetables and had some fruit trees,” Lindiwe recalls.
“There was this one apple tree that always produced the sourest apples I have ever tasted. I never could figure out what was wrong with that tree,” she says. Growing up self-sufficient, the Sitholes rarely had to buy vegetables or meat. “My grandmother also used to bake a lot and there was always plenty to eat.”
Lindiwe says her grandparents, Fana Patrick and Gladys Khathazile Sithole, never worked but still managed to raise a large family of nine, including grandchildren.
“Through farming, my grandparents were also able to make a huge contribution to the poor in the community.
My grandparents ran a church on the plot and donated a lot of what they produced to the poor.”
As a child, Lindiwe never could understand why they had to be woken up so early on weekends. “We were expected to help with weeding, watering and feeding chickens. I always remember being so upset, because I felt weekends were there for resting after a long week of school.”
It was only years after her grandparents had passed on that Lindiwe started to appreciate how important those childhood experiences had been. “Whenever we go back to my grandparents’ homestead for family gatherings, I can’t help but be saddened about how the land is now just lying fallow.
These memories of her grandparents stayed with her throughout her university studies and into her working life, until she and her mother started discussing farming again. “We’re now looking for a piece of land where we can start small,” explains Lindiwe. Her mom, who used to work is a credit controller at a private hospital, is now retired, and the plan is that she will actively manage the farm and Lindiwe will help part time as she continues to work.
Lindiwe says she is extremely excited about the opportunity to present African Farming, especially because it came at a time when she and her mom are actively planning their farming careers. “I’m so convinced it is God’s intervention!” she says.
The show has been a real eye-opener for Lindiwe. Spending time with top farmers like Mama Dineo Mokgoshi, Mama Pinky Hlabedi and Mbali Nwoko has not only been inspiring, but has also helped her rediscover who she is, what matters to her and why she wants to farm.
“The stories of the female farmers, especially, really resonated with me. I could so identify with the hurdles they had to overcome to carve out a place for themselves in what remains a predominantly male industry. These stories will inspire more women not to be intimidated when entering the agricultural industry,” Lindiwe says.
She believes farming is not yet attractive enough to the youth and women in particular. “If you think of farming, you have this picture of an old white guy in khakis or an elderly rural old lady working with a hoe. But this perception is changing, with competent, inspiring woman farmers like Mbali Nwoko now stepping up to the plate.”
For Lindiwe, the most important thing any young, aspiring farmer could to is ask questions. “From what I’m learning, the sharing of information is so vital in the farming community. Farmers are always willing to give advice or lend a helping hand where they can.”
“I’ve seen how much patience, resilience, and passion farming requires. It can be quite overwhelming when you start out, but my advice would be to take it one step at a time, ask a lot of questions and learn as much as you can as you go along.”
Lindiwe says it is clear that the lack of financial support of the emerging sector remains a huge challenge. “It’s really holding black farmers back. Government and the department of agriculture should do more than just pay lip service to investing in black farmers.”
As far as African Farming is concerned, Lindiwe says she wants to put faces to the hands that make sure the country has enough food to eat.
“Farming must be one of the most vital businesses anyone can be part of. These are the people who make sure we have food on our tables. I want to tell their stories, share their setbacks and triumphs, and the lessons we can learn. It’s such a privilege to be able to tell such important stories to an audience.
“I want viewers to experience these heart-warming stories through my eyes. I want us to learn together and hopefully inspire a new generation of young South Africans who will be curious and inspired by our amazing farmers!”