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Western Cape finalist named SA's top female entrepreneur in agri-processing

Ilse Ruthford won the top honour in the agri-processing category at DAFF's Female Entrepreneur awards. Ilse Ruthford won the top honour in the agri-processing category at DAFF's Female Entrepreneur awards.

A Western Cape entrepreneur clinched top honours in the agri-processing category at the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' awards to honour women in agriculture.

Ilse Ruthford, from Stellenbosch, won R250,000 when she was named as one of South Africa’s best female entrepreneurs in agriculture at a gala dinner on Friday night in Mafikeng. She went onto compete in the national awards after winning the agri-processing category in the Western Cape leg of the DAFF awards, which were held in Wellington last week.

Ruthford is the financial manager of the wine storage facility at the Compagniesdrift farm. The farm is one of the Western Cape’s land reform success stories. It is a equity scheme project where 50% of the farm is owned by the Meerlest Powerment Trust, of which Ilse is a member. 

The facility offers storage, bottling and labelling services to the wine industry.  Currently 42 producers in the wine industry store a total of two million bottles in the warehouse. It offers a cost-effective alternative to local wine producers who do not have easy access to such facilities. 

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, said Ruthford served as an inspiration to women in the agricultural sector.

“Ilse a role model who will create the right environment to attract more young people to agriculture and processing, She is an excellent ambassador for the Western Cape’s agricultural sector. We need to celebrate her efforts, and the achievements of all women in agriculture, so we can encourage more women to enter this industry. Agriclture is an important economic catalyst and I want to see more residents benefitting from this sector,” said Minister Winde.

Speaking after her win, Ruthford encouraged other women in the industry to pursue their goals: “Your dreams can come true too.” She said her win was a team effort, adding that the farm’s management and workers also deserved credit. She planned to establish a vegetable garden and cattle herd on the farm.

“This award is motivating me to do so much more. Now, I really want to see things happen,” said Ruthford.

The competition, which is a joint effort between the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the provinces, rewards the efforts and contribution of women in matters such as food security, job creation, economic growth and poverty alleviation.

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