06 August 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Carien Denner will tell her 15-year-old self to drink more water, use more sunscreen, and to be present in the moment to not miss out on a single opportunity.

The Ruforum Wool project strives to ensure sustainable growth for communal wool farmers in the Free State by enabling them to compete in wool quality with commercial wool farmers through end-to-end development of the wool value chain. In this project, small-scale wool farmers and community members are identified and invited to take part in the project where they learn various skills in each component of the wool value chain. As a result, production by the communal wool growers is transformed from an underachieving enterprise to a profitable, sustainable, and renewable venture that will enhance the livelihoods of wool producers in the community.  

An interview with Carien Denner, Project Manager in the Department of Consumer Science at the University of the Free State (UFS), revealed that there is more to this woman who is working hard to enhance the livelihoods of communities. 

Please tell us about yourself: Who are you, and what do you do? 

“I am involved in the Community Gardens Food Security project, as well as the Ruforum Wool project. With the latter project, I serve on the management team that was established to commercialise wool production in the communal areas of the province by developing strategies to overcome the various challenges faced by these growers.”

Is there a woman who inspires you and who you would like to celebrate this Women’s Month? Why?

“My mother, a teacher for more than 43 years, epitomises my idea of a dynamic woman being kind, encouraging, truthful, fun, strong, selfless, and brave through everything that life has thrown at her. I believe that a mother’s love and sacrifices are what makes us as women dynamic – each in her own right.”

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your life that have made you a better woman?

“When my dad passed away (I was 12 years old), I saw my mom being an ironwoman who never gave up and never got tired. Instead, she showed us what courage looks like and set an amazing example of strength and perseverance for my brother and me.”

What advice would you give to the 15-year-old you?

“This is not a good question to ask someone in the middle of a pandemic! I would tell myself to appreciate every day for what it is and not to stress about the future too much.  

What would you say makes you a champion woman [of the UFS]?

“I think a champion woman is someone who – especially during these trying times – supports, empowers, and uplifts her fellow man. The Ruforum Wool project and everyone who is involved in it is doing precisely that. We need to empower, uplift, and encourage our emerging farmers to restore dignity and ensure sustainability in agriculture, food production, and their general participation in the economy. Communities surrounding them are equally in need of sustainable employment opportunities where valuable skills can be learned in order to provide for themselves and their families. This is what we strive to do to make a meaningful difference through our efforts.”


WATCH: Carien Denner from the UFS Department of Consumer Sciences serves on the management team of the Community Gardens Food Security project as well as the Ruforum Wool project, where she strives to enhance the livelihoods of communities. 

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