Grow­ing women farm­ers

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Su­laiman Philip

the Depart­ment of Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment, South African Brew­eries (SAB) and the Agri­cul­tural Re­search Coun­cil hope to help 5 000 women maize farm­ing co-op­er­a­tives join the brew­eries sup­ply chain by 2020.

Ekan­gala Pri­mary Co-op­er­a­tive is a 100 per cent women-owned agri­cul­ture busi­ness and was one of the first of 11 co-op­er­a­tives to join the Women in Maize pro­gramme in 2016. Be­fore join­ing the pro­gramme, the women of Ekan­gala had just 15 hectares un­der maize cul­ti­va­tion. Now they have in­creased that to 45 hectares and ex­pect to har­vest 225 tons of maize.

The pro­gramme’s 120 fe­male farm­ers har­vested 1 800 hectares of maize in Gaut­eng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and North West last year. The im­pres­sive first year har­vest rep­re­sents just nine per cent of SAB’s needs.

As more farm­ers are signed up, SAB hopes to in­crease the num­ber of women farm­ers in their sup­ply chain.

Over the next five years, the mul­ti­mil­lion rand in­vest­ment by SAB will draw in 5 000 women farm­ers to be­come pre­ferred sup­pli­ers to the brewer. The in­ten­tion is to stim­u­late lo­cal economies by giv­ing them a guar­an­teed mar­ket for their crops.

As SAB’s Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Cor­po­rate Af­fairs and Trans­for­ma­tion, Mon­wabisi Fan­deso, ex­plained when the group celebrated the first har­vest in the pro­gramme, “We work with small-scale farm­ers to over­come these chal­lenges while en­sur­ing land is used responsibly, food sup­ply is se­cure, bio­di­ver­sity is pro­tected and crops can be ac­cessed at rea­son­able prices.”

As well as mar­ket ac­cess, farm­ers in the Women in Maize pro­gramme get fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and help with skills train­ing. For SAB, sourcing from es­tab­lished lo­cal sup­ply chains helps to re­duce costs and im­prove ef­fi­cien­cies.

Stronger ru­ral economies will also cre­ate jobs and strengthen lo­cal economies, which will help gov­ern­ment meet its goal of one mil­lion agri­cul­tural jobs cre­ated by 2030.

“This ini­tia­tive is an ex­am­ple of how much we can achieve when gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor work to­gether. The task of en­sur­ing that the Ekan­gala Co-op­er­a­tive and oth­ers across the coun­try grow and thrive, rests on our col­lec­tive shoul­ders,” said Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Lindiwe Zulu at the cel­e­bra­tion of the first har­vest.

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