Gostina Malope believes that agriculture is the cornerstone of the South African economy and should be invested in as such. Rural upliftment through farming is one of the most sustainable forms of social development, she says.
As the principal and director of Toutele Agriculture College South Africa, Malope applies her passion for the sector by helping to bridge the skills gap among the youth in her hometown of Bushbuckridge.
In partnership with the agricultural, culture, art, tourism and sports sector education and training authorities, among other educational partners, the college offers courses leading to formal qualifications that will empower students to create employment through small enterprises or improve productivity in their existing businesses.
Malope holds diplomas in plant production, animal breeding and mixed farming and has extensive experience as a training facilitator.
She discovered that she has an innate ability to be a peer educator while working for non-profit organisation Siyaphila Youth Services, which focuses on HIV education and projects aiming to alleviate poverty. Six years later, she registered her company to offer her facilitation skills on a more formal level. After completing additional training courses, Malope had the opportunity to become a training specialist in farming, while also managing the farm where she produces crops.
Through Toutele Agriculture College South Africa, Malope has assisted more than 2 000 farmers and more than 5 000 young people. The college has also received recognition for several learning programmes in remote areas.
Various courses in agriculture, education and training, management, business and leadership, and hospitality faculties are offered through distance e-learning, contact and blended learning.
A tenacious student in her own right, Malope incorporates the intuitive knowledge she gains from her pupils into her own learning, for a more forward-thinking business approach.
“The process of training rural farmers to be commercially viable has also taught me a lot about respecting people who share as much wisdom as they do. They have such extensive and invaluable experiences on the subject, even though they didn’t have formal qualifications,” she says.
Malope’s commitment to the community in which she was born and raised has allowed her to conceptualise learning programmes that cater to specific rural needs. Beyond her acute understanding of running a farming business, her ability to make empathetic connections with others — having been a counsellor previously — breaks down boundaries of communication between her and her students.
That humility in her perspective is what makes Malope’s work even more impactful — the respect she has for agriculture and her ability to adapt to different environments.
“In my formal education and in what I continue to learn, is how to use agriculture to sustain families. Even seeing how much our involvement in our community has impacted lives has been life-changing for me,”