Celebrating a Young African Woman’s Venture into Agri-Business

By Phindi Maduna

August is celebrated as Women’s Month in South Africa. Annual celebrations are important reminders that Women are central to resolving many of the country’s socio-economic challenges. Pheladi Chiloane is a young South African woman who is taking on this challenge by competing in the agricultural industry as a business owner and uplifting young people through economic empowerment in the process.

Chiloane was raised in a village in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga and this is where her passion for agribusiness was born, when she saw how small-scale agricultural farming contributed positively to the livelihoods of many families.

Chiloane is the founder and Chief Executive of African Agricultural Solutions (AAS) which started operations in 2017. She has postgraduate degrees in Public Management and International Politics. She has over 7 years in the Supply Chain Management industry as a result of having worked in the South African public service.

AAS was created to tackle the problems of poverty, lack of food security, exclusion in the commercial agricultural sector, as well as the lack of skills and knowledge transfer experienced by rural communities throughout Africa. The company aims to shift the paradigm on how farming is experienced and perceived in rural communities by introducing all aspects of commercial agricultural practices in an innovative and environmentally friendly methods namely, open field (traditional) and hydroponic systems.

The focus is on fresh produce, processed foods and herbal products which can be used for medicinal, skin-care as well aromatic purposes. Various capacity building elements of the agri-business value chain are introduced to rural farming communities through practical and theoretical training.  In addition, consultative services are provided to start-ups in the farming sector.

One of Chiloane’s highlights, since founding AAS in 2017, has been being recognised by SEED – a sustainable development and green economy programme that was founded by the UN Environment Programme, UN Development Programme, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 2002. She was on boarded to various SEED business development programmes and as a result was invited to speak at the 4th Partnership for Action on Green Economy Conference in 2019; where she highlighted the challenges and potential solutions for the agricultural industry in Africa especially for marginalised women and youth.

This year the agricultural sector, much like many other sectors, has been hard hit due to the economic challenges brought about by the outbreak and spread of COVID19. However, Chiloane remains hopeful that AAS will endure and overcome the limitations by innovating its approach. She looks forward to continuing to pursue her purpose of being part of the much needed solution for the country’s economic setback, going forward.

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