Youth Month 2022: Randy Tholakele Cossa

Youth Month 2022: Randy Tholakele Cossa

June is Youth Month, and this year the NRF is celebrating the youth of the NRF who are working towards achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We thank all participants for sharing their stories with us and we hope that you are inspired by the young NRF-affiliated researchers who are helping to ensure a sustainable planet for all.

Randy Tholakele Cossa is an Honours student studying for a Bachelor of Agriculture in Agricultural Extension and Rural Resource Management at the University of Mpumalanga (UMP). She’s a tutor for Agronomy and Water Management and part of the UMP ladies soccer team. She is currently funded by the NRF for her Honours studies.

This is her story…

I am a 23-year-old God-fearing girl. A graduate with an Agricultural degree. I come from the rural areas at Kamhlushwa (Mpumalanga) and from a family of five. I was raised by my grandmother (Cacilda Cossa) who has been a single parent since 2007. Both my parents are still alive, living in separate places. I did my primary and secondary education at Masibekela. I have a passion for farming and education. I see myself as a future agricultural researcher.

After completing my matric in 2016, I applied to different universities but got rejected at all of them due to space constraints. Life humbled me and I got a job as a general worker at a Komatipoort farm for two years. When my contract ended, I started applying again for tertiary education and got accepted at the University of Mpumalanga. I graduated on 14 May 2022.

I recently received NRF funding for my Honours studies. The infrastructural scope to conduct my research requires financial support for me to be able to effectively conduct my research project. My study is based in a community that is ±90 km away from the university. Therefore, receiving funding won’t only help in paying tuition fees but will also make it easier for me to move from the university to the farms to collect data. Coming from a family that is no stranger to poverty, I was struggling financially for the past few months – you can imagine the stress of not knowing what you are going to eat and how you will pay accommodation fees. Hopefully, with the money I receive, I will be able to save up so that I am able to register for a Master’s degree in Agriculture next year. Receiving NRF funding has positively impacted my studies and life in general.

I chose agriculture because I grew up in a village where farming is the only way of sustaining a livelihood and alleviating poverty. Being exposed to such an environment fostered my love for farming. I am looking forward to being one of the best researchers in the agricultural field who will be able to solve the constraints faced by smallholder farmers – in farming, as well as in the marketing of their produce.

Did you have to overcome any obstacles to be where you are today, and what did you learn from it?

Not really, I just applied and got accepted at UMP. I got NSFAS and it paid accommodation, fees, and a meal allowance for my undergraduate degree. For me to be where I am today, I had to save monthly from my first year and that’s why I managed to register and survive for the past four months without calling my granny to ask for money.

What is your research focus/area of expertise?

My research is focused on the Agricultural field. My research topic is: “Market Access Perceptions Among Smallholder Farmers in Bushbuckridge Local Municipality”.

The United Nations identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure “…a better and more sustainable future for all…” by 2030. Which of these goals are you addressing through your research, or in your personal life?

SDG 1: No Poverty and SDG 2: Zero Hunger

Market access refers to the ability to enter and sell farm produce. This study will contribute to poverty and hunger alleviation by helping smallholder farmers access different agricultural marketing channels to raise incomes and improve their livelihood. According to the World Food Programme (2019), 37.2 million worth of food were bought from smallholder farmers. Therefore, access to agricultural markets holds the key to building sustainable food systems and advancing food security. As a result, agricultural product marketing is essential to achieving the overall goal of food security and poverty reduction.

I am also involved in NGO projects that give back to communities. I am part of a food garden project at UMP. The goal of the project is to supply local primary and secondary schools with all the resources for backyard gardening, thereby teaching young children the importance of farming.

What are some of your proudest achievements?

I hold a leadership certificate; a code 10 driver’s licence I did with my book allowance savings; and a degree certificate obtained in record time with an overall average of 73%.

What are your career aspirations for the future?

I would like to be an NRF-rated researcher and start my own farm.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). Please view the terms for republishing here

Related Posts