Corporate Social Investment
 

Growing veggies in Lerome South

With an investment from the Industrial Development Corporation and guidance from Food and Trees for Africa, a farming co-operative is growing returns.

August 8, 2012

Re Tsoga Pele co-operative members busy working on their farmRe Tsoga Pele co-operative members busy working on their farm

Lerome South Village, outside Mogwase in the Moses Kotane Local Municipality of North West Province, is fast becoming a vegetable heaven for nearby lodges, thanks in part to the IDC's corporate social investment unit (CSI).

A group of flourishing farmers calling themselves Re Tsoga Pele Vegetable Supply Co-operative, is producing fresh organic farm produce grown primarily for the village. The CSI unit stepped in with funds to help the co-op at the beginning of this year. The money was used to re-design the farm and to buy infrastructure, as well as to provide training and mentorship.

The co-op had been farming a one-hectare piece of land for the past two years, with no financial assistance from the local municipality. Re Tsoga Pele, which means "we wake up early", is a green oasis in the arid Lerome South Village. The village is only 10 years old. The majority of its residents are mine workers, although there are also factory workers and municipal staff in the mix. Very few people in this community are unemployed.

The IDC's involvement came after it approached Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA) to help identify a viable project in North West. FTFA is now responsible for the project and manages it on behalf of the beneficiaries. FTFA implements six programmes – Farmers Eco-Enterprise Development (Feed), Trees for All, Trees for Homes, Bamboo for Africa, Food Gardens, and EduPlant.

Feed was the proposal sent to the IDC with the aim of creating jobs and self-employment opportunities through the promotion of successful organic agricultural practices among small community farmers. This model was developed in conjunction with the Department of Rural Development's Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, which was drawn up to address issues of sustainable livelihoods. FTFA has become a service delivery agent working between small farmers and donors.

Mbaliseng Dube, one of the enterprising farmers, says that with the help of the IDC, the co-op now has eight 5 000 litre water tanks to water the plants and a fence to cordon off the land. She says they will now focus on planting spinach and cabbage because there is a high demand for it from nearby resorts, who have pledged to buy the produce.

"As a project owner and project shareholder, I see myself being a big entrepreneur selling vegetables, even overseas," she says.

Jeffrey Modise, the project leader from the community, says that after coming up with the idea to grow their own produce, these entrepreneurs had to prepare the land – at the time it was just bush – in order to ready the soil for planting.

Feed is based on four core facets, namely training, infrastructural development, support, and marketing. Desmond Mohlolo, the FTFA mentor and skills trainer on site, says he came to the village in mid-May to introduce the beneficiaries to organic farming. The community understands and has embraced the concept of organic farming, he adds.

Finance courses are also run by Mohlolo to teach the co-op members how to manage their own as well as the farm's financial growth.

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