GOSTINA MALOPE, or ‘Gabbey’ as she is more commonly known, is the dynamic and inspiring founder and director of Toutele Agriculture College, South Africa. Growing up in a rural farming community, Gabbey developed a passion for agriculture. She established the college in 2015 specifically for rural girls, to address challenges faced by rural communities, of not being able to access higher education like university and colleges, which were out of their reach or in towns. However, with a strong interest coming from boys as well, soon they were included.
As a result, the college evolved into a rural community college that is affordable and accessible for general wage-earning parents, including the SETAs, opening empowerment opportunities to them. Gabbey has over the years, worked with youth and farmers to help them acquire education, skills and training in the agriculture sector, thereby enabling them to become more self-sufficient and sustainable through farming.
This dynamic woman entrepreneur has built her name as an expert in the agriculture sector, which is traditionally not a glamorous industry for most young people. However, Gabbey, a businesswoman of many talents, is also the founder of Gabriva Clothing Label. She says, “I simply love clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, beauty products and perfumes. “Besides being a businesswoman, social entrepreneur and wife, Gabbey is also mother to twins – a boy and a girl.
Gabbey was recently appointed the president of the KZN Centre for Rural Development, which advocates for small enterprise business to be revived post Covid and after the disasters such as floods and looting, which our province experienced. “Young women and men are no longer keen to go into entrepreneurship, they want jobs, and as we all know, jobs have all disappeared along with all the disasters that have occurred over the last two years,” Gabbey observed. “My biggest goal with the KZN Centre is to just activate more innovative business ideas and entrepreneurial opportunities and map out our country to be an agricultural economic hub as a whole.”
Gabbey is an innovative and passionate entrepreneur who is determined to make a difference. Looking at the faces of the graduates each year, she sees such a huge difference in them from when they started out. “The growth in the students is so rewarding, and farmers on the development programme are now supplying international markets. This is where you vividly see the change, you don’t have to look for it,” she explained. The best reward for Gabby is seeing young women operating in the space of agriculture, which has been a predominantly male dominated environment. “Seeing the goals that we had, being manifested in these young people, and seeing them become who they never thought they could be, is priceless,” says Gabbey.
One of the biggest challenges Gabbey has experienced as a businesswoman in her industry, was Covid, which steered her into completely new ways. The normal daily farming routines had to change. “We now had to love our crops with a glove,” she says. There was a titanic loss of farmers, as many were affected health wise. Crop production is an incredibly physical and intensive process, and many farmers were not able to continue.
Covid was certainly the biggest challenge for the college, which forced them to relook their operational processes and find innovative new ways. Gabbey is determined that they will overcome these challenges by being nonapologetic and taking initiative on how to best incorporate the challenges post-Covid to build a health system specifically for agriculture. As a result, the college is developing learning programmes for agri-health so that farmers learn how to look after themselves.
Gabbey’s dream is to build an eco-college, on land owned by the institution, which has already garnered much hype. This technology will expose students to world-class farming practices. She also has a strong vision to establish the organisation beyond the borders of South Africa. Gabbey’s vision is to transform the agriculture sector through technology, capacity development, and sustainable farming methodologies and practices.
Her innovative ideas have been adopted by several other colleges in the industry. Gabbey and Toutele Agriculture College South Africa boasts some of the biggest stakeholders in the country, such as AgriSETA, Afrivest, Tsolo Agriculture and Rural Development Institute, Owen Sithole Agriculture College, Crooks Brothers, SA Veterinary Council amongst other giants in the industry.
ADVICE TO YOUNG WOMEN
“Don’t follow trends, rather set trends,” is Gabbey’s firm and clear advice to young women. Whatever you do should replenish you, so invest in yourself first, so that others see you as the prototype of what you believe. And don’t give up, the world is your oyster and constantly evolving. “Look at vegetables,” she says, “first they were only consumed, now they are in health products, and in beauty products. Anything is possible.”
Balancing her life comes from spending most of her time with her twins. Gabbey has a guitar and loves music, so dancing to the music wherever they are, is what you will find them doing to unwind. She also loves food and says she is ‘an adventurous eater’ who likes to try out unusual dishes. Gabbey also loves taking risks where she believes in something, which she says stimulates and energises her. She also unwinds by watching series on TV.
In conclusion, Gabbey’s message to the women of South Africa is that they need to step up and get out of the spaces that limit them. She believes that South Africa is an economic hub that has not yet fully identified its potential. “The women of South Africa are immensely wonderful, and we need to step up and become the new life blood of our country,” says Gabbey. “The old carry the wisdom, the young are the movers and shakers, and together we make a strong, diverse force to drive the economy of South Africa. Our country is rich in its women.”