In contrast to the many dismal COVID-19 stories currently dominating the headlines, we’d like to share the uplifting story of one of the Futuregrowth Agri-Fund’s farmworkers, Amy Jacobs, who works on the Zwartfontein farm in the Fund’s Bonathaba/Zwartfontein investment.
Amy grew up on a farm in Malmesbury, where she was raised in a single-parent, all-women household, consisting of her mother, grandmother and three sisters. Her mother and grandmother were both farmworkers, so she has spent her whole life surrounded by and actively participating in agriculture in one way or another. While this informed Amy’s world view growing up, she also developed a strong sense of independence and a disciplined work ethic as she was required to help her mother in providing for their household from an early age.
Amy’s family responsibilities led her to leave school in 2014, before having the chance to matriculate, and she began working on the Zwartfontein farm. She was employed as a general worker for a year, before leaving and returning in 2016. She returned with a new determination to succeed, and also a new responsibility in the form of a baby daughter. Amy credits the arrival of her daughter with motivating her to aim higher with her ambitions, and to volunteer for tasks that many of her peers found too daunting or challenging.
Amy began working in the sticker room at the packhouse and discovered a passion for numbers, computers and technology. Despite having no formal training in computer skills, her natural aptitude and determination set her apart, and she found support in Stephan Viljoen, Zwartfontein’s farm manager, who contacted the Fund’s ESG team to ask if any developmental opportunities could be provided for her.
A new path
Today, Amy is 24 years old and is the friendly face of Zwartfontein’s reception office. She is completing her matric through the Fund’s adult education programme and aspires to a management role in agriculture. She is pleased to have received these opportunities, and is particularly grateful for the crèche facilities on the farm, which have significantly reduced the stress of raising her daughter while pursuing both her career and her education.
Amy’s passion for technology is unabated. A standout moment for her was her first encounter with Philemon Sithole, the Fund’s junior agronomist, when he came to map the farm with the use of a drone. This activity made a big impression on her and gave her an insight into the future of modern farming.
Rewriting the plot
In many ways, Amy’s life story is echoed by countless daughters of farmworkers in South Africa. What sets her storyline apart is her innate intelligence and drive – and, more importantly, that this has been recognised and nurtured. This, thanks to individuals such as an insightful farm manager, as well as a system that supports growth and development, such as the ESG programme that is integral to Fund ownership of the farm. With all of this, Amy is modelling the thesis that, regardless of the beginning, there can be a happy – and fulfilling - ending.