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BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS FOR WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE

She dreamt about making a difference through her life’s work, and with agriculture’s essential role in sustaining human life, AB InBev’s Aviwe Mahanjana is doing just that.

As Alternative Crops Researcher Team Lead for the AB InBev Africa Zone, Mahanjana is responsible for planning, co-ordinating and executing sorghum variety selection trials as well as crop management trials in Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia and South Africa. She is based in Johannesburg.

“We are working towards the common goal of selecting sorghum that has high yields and good brewing quality, and improving sorghum productivity through good agronomic management practices,” Mahanjana says.

Her job sees her travel to these countries at crucial stage of plant growth and development - during planting, booting and flowering, maturity and harvesting – as data collection is essential at these points. “When I’m in South Africa I compare data, and work together with the brewing team, who are my internal partner.”

Mahanjana feels that healthcare is probably the only sector that might have a greater impact than agriculture. “Most people spend a lot of their young years dreaming about making an impact; I’m no different. Agriculture allows me to do exactly that,” she says of her job, which she has been in for almost two years.

The best part of her job is seeing the fruits of her labour and “seeing how real of an effect climate and seasonality, the soil and the location have on the same specific crop”, and the constant learning that goes with each season.

“It’s also quite something to know that your job is not only about the bottom line and contributing to the long-term profitability of your company, but also about improving people’s lives,” she says.

While the face of agriculture has always been male, Mahanjana feels this is changing.  “I’ve met female CEOs of successful seed companies (Tanzania); female MDs of small aggregator companies (Uganda) and women who’ve through hard work and dedication, have won agriculture competitions hosted by the company (Uganda). Yes, for now we’re sticking out like sore thumbs, but I believe it won’t be that way for much longer.”

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