Pearl Gaone Ranna is not your regular young woman. At just 23, the agricultural fanatic has staged Botswana‘s first ever Women in Farming Expo (WIFE). The Expo, which was endorsed by the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, Agriculture and Labour and Home Affairs, was held on May 28 at Serokolwane Lawns. Last minute cancellations by those that she had expected did not deter her from proceeding with the Expo. “We had six women who were exhibiting, unfortunately most of them pulled out last minute. We are expecting more women next year as this was our first event. They were from small-stock, poultry, vegetable production and dairy farming,” she says. This outcome, according to Ranna, is a clear indication that women need support. Their reluctance to exhibit, she reckons, may be due to various factors, including lack of self-confidence and self- doubt. These are the very tributes that WIFE sought to address by empowering women and facilitating their self–development to make them understand the role they play as women in farming as far as food production for Botswana is concerned.
Not to be deterred, Ranna however says they went ahead and staged the expo, and by the look of things all was not lost as the attendees enjoyed the event, especially the workshops and seminars they had. “We had various exhibitors from the relevant stakeholders who offer different products and services to all farmers across Botswana,” she says. The women in farming Expo, she explains, was a platform for women in the agricultural sector to showcase their agricultural products and to educate existing and aspiring farmers on the fundamentals of agribusiness. She was inspired to organise WIFE by her love for farming, and the passion she has for empowering women in agriculture across Botswana. “So I believe the Expo was amongst the few ideas I had to achieve the goal of women empowerment in the Agricultural sector,” Ranna says. It is not surprising that the 23-year-old BA (Honours) Degree in Business Enterprise holder who is small-stock and Poultry farmer herself is getting ready to fly to England in September to study an MSc in Agriculture and Development. Ranna is also the Managing Director of Unitech Farming.
Her belief is that women play a vital role in farming. Their involvement in farming, she says, can be traced right back to the family unit, because over the years women have always been the ones who stayed at the lands to grow vegetables and fruits, making sure that the whole family has a decent meal. Her worry is that local women who are mostly small scale farmers are still faced with many problems such as lack of land, water, capital, and enterprise. She is calling on government to amend policies to ensure that women are provided with empowerment programmes which will assist in their development, especially in rural areas. Government, according to Ranna, should also look at ways to educate women on food production and agro processing and avoid just offering funds to them.