Leticia Jacobs – South Africa

Leticia Jacobs – South Africa

Date: December 7, 2015
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Believing in myself

“My life has been difficult and there have been challenges, but now I know my season of plenty has arrived”

My dream has always been to become a farmer I have always loved the idea of farming, as a young girl I actually wanted to be a social worker or a veterinarian. I remember always looking after stray dogs and animals when I was young, but there was no money to send me to school. I did not even complete my high school, and I came from a very poor home so there was no chance of getting a formal education.

Even though I have had a tough life, I decided to make the best out of my circumstances. I am currently a farmer; we got this land through the land reform process. My husband and I are descendants of a community that was forcibly removed during apartheid because of the Group Areas Act. A few years ago the government started the process of land reform and redress, the area that we were forced to evacuate belonged to farmers but as part of the compensation we were either offered money for the land, or we could be allocated some hectares. I chose to take the allocated hectares of land and that was the start of my farming business. People who chose to take the financial compensation misspent the money that they were given.

I have worked with Witzenberg Local Economic Development Unit and the Red Door financial institution; however when I met Juliana from Gender Links I understood what I wanted to do with my business. I was informed about the training by Maranda Muller, the gender focal person from Witzenberg Municipality. When she told me about the “I” stories session, I was not sure if I could attend it because I was afraid to deal with pain and feelings of hurt from my past. My husband and I got married two years ago, but we have been together for over 30 years. We had a good relationship and then he became abusive, and we have four children together. At the time when he was abusive he would not give me money to feed the children. I would have to work on farms or do domestic work just to feed my children. At one stage things became bad, and I found myself living with my children with extended family members because of the abuse. My children and I were also not treated well by these family members.

However my husband gave his life to Christ a few years ago and we reconciled but during the separation I started to think about my life. I attended the “I” stories workshop facilitated by Juliana and I realised that writing and sharing my story was healing. I gained strength from that session and it made me realise that I wanted to do something bigger with my life. My husband assists me to run the farm, but it is solely mine as the property is registered in my late parent’s name. There was further training that Juliana gave to us during phase 1 of the entrepreneurship project. She taught us how to think about our businesses and also develop business plans. I have never thought of my business in a formal way. I have a lot of livestock but I just used to sell it and make a profit but did not think further. When Juliana helped us to develop business plans it also made me feel confident that I could think of formally registering my business and also seriously start applying for loans to help my business.

I finalised my business plan with Juliana and then we shared it with the LED Manager at Witzenberg Municipality. He then referred me to an agency founded by the Department of Agriculture that specialised in assisting small farmers with grants. The process has been very hard; because one of the requirements to get a small grant is that the business needs to be registered. So Juliana has assisted me with that process as well, as has the LED office from Witzenberg. The day I met Gender Links through Juliana my life changed because I had never thought about registering the business formally, let alone approaching an agency to assist me in my business.

The training has taught me to have the courage to do something more with my life. Once I understood the basic principles of business and the way to think of profits and keeping a record of my expenses, I started to make more money. I also told my customers that I would mark up the prices, and they did not mind. I also started the venture of selling fresh produce like chicken, eggs and fresh milk. I began to plant a vegetable garden that is growing very well and hopefully I will be selling those products soon.

The training helped me to think of moving into different markets. I think the other thing is that my family, especially my children, and community members also started to notice how serious I had become about my business. I also want to join the local market and sell my produce to more people. My children have told me how proud they are of me, as I struggled to develop a business plan but Juliana visited me and kept a close eye on what I was doing. The gender focal person Maranda Muller was very supportive through the process. As a result of these small changes to my business, I have been able to start extending my house. It is an old farm house, but I have started with renovations to the property. I am able to assist in paying for my grandchildren’s school fees and generally our lives seem better. We no longer really have to struggle very much for things and are able to pay for electricity and water bills.

Although this journey has been full of challenges, one of them being that I am semi-literate, I have dealt with my fears of not being able to read properly and I have also started using the computer. Even though it does not happen often I am now not scared to go and ask for information. I feel that there are people who will be able to help me along the way.

I am really grateful that I attended the first meeting with Gender Links, otherwise I would not have made some of the decisions that I have made. I would not have known about the small grants loan from the Department of Agriculture and I would have been afraid to think about the future.

Right now I feel that things are looking better and there is a definite hope for the future. My life has been difficult and there have been challenges, but now I know my season of plenty has arrived.


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