Age is but a number for Gogo Virginia

The Vryheid-born octogenarian has been farming sugarcane for 30 years and retirement does not feature in her plans.
 
September 1, 2015
 
84-year-old Gogo Virginia, originally from Vryheid, farms sugar near Eshowe.
 
TONGAAT Hulett tells us the company is proud to have 84-year-old sugarcane grower, Gogo Virginia, as an active farmer on their books.
 
The Vryheid-born octogenarian has been farming sugarcane for 30 years and retirement does not feature in her plans.
 
“I will only retire when I am dead. I see women in their 60s using walking sticks, while I walk with my hoe, working.
 
“I love farming, it gives me life. Even when I’m sick, as soon I start working on my plot, the pain goes away,” said Gogo Virginia.
 
She takes after her father and brother who were both sugarcane farmers.
 
Her brother, Abednego, was the first person to farm sugarcane in Mbongolwane, an area west of Eshowe.
 
“My brother had a plot on which he started planting sugarcane. I was allocated two hectares from the plot on which I also planted sugarcane.
 
“I received my first cheque in 1985 with a payment of R300. This was big money in the 80s,” says Gogo Virginia.
 
She is the Chairperson of Sakhindlela Co-operative, which was established in 1995 and registered in 2011. The co-operative consists of approximately 200 members from the Mbongolwane community.
 
In addition to receiving income for the cane proceeds from the miller, cooperative members also receive payment from the Supplementary Payment Fund (SPF) which is part of the Sugar Industry’s financial contribution to sustaining small scale growers by paying them a premium price for their cane. Both these payments have had a considerable impact on the members’ lives.
 
“The financial rewards are quite good and as a result my standard of living has improved considerably. I now look and feel good.”
 
Some of the challenges she has had to endure during her career have been educating community members on how co-operatives operate.
 
The highlights in her farming career include being appointed as a Chairperson of the Sakhindlela Co-operative and the payments she received which contributed to her financial upliftment and well being.
 
A typical day in Gogo Virginia’s life includes registering new co-operative members; sourcing new plots on which to plant sugarcane; dealing with issues negatively impacting the sustainability of sugarcane in her area such as uncontrolled animal grazing, and educating school children about the importance of looking after sugarcane.
 
She said the most rewarding part of her work is seeing people she introduced into the farming industry start to appreciate the importance of agriculture in improving livelihood.
 
“My greatest strength is my ability to persuade people to take an interest in anything I speak about. I also love to sing and dance at church.”
 
Regards
 
Nkonzo Mhlongo
 
SED Manager
Cane and Rural Development Unit (CRDU),
Physical address: 1 Main Avenue, Maidstone, Tongaat 4380
Postal address: PO Box 5, Maidstone, 4380
Tel: 032 439 5560 or Cell: 082 8700 112