Limpopo’s soil is known to be among the most degraded in South Africa. From sandy to sandy-clay soils, the landscape seems like an inhospitable environment for growth, and to some extent this is true. But this was before the establishment of the Blouberg Agri-Services Hub.
Potato farmers Andrew Negota and Phophi Raletjeba from deep in the rural areas of Blouberg and Musina, are cultivating potatoes at an impressive level while exporting to big markets. This is all thanks to a strategic partnership between the Agricultural Development Agency (Agda), the De Beers Group and Anglo American.
According to Sydney Chauke, Blouberg Agri-Services Hub manager, the hub’s primary object is to uplift and assist farmers around the Blouberg Municipality area.
“The hub brings services such as marketing of the product, giving them niche markets abroad. The hub brings along potential markets, production financing, and training,” he explains.
Elevating rural farmers to greater heights
Negota farms in De Vrede village on communal land. He has been doing so for the past 10 years. Farming on communal land, he shares, is far from easy. However, when the Blouberg Agri-Services Hub stepped in, Negota saw growth in his agri-business.
“Blouberg Agri-Services Hub supported me through debushing 10 hectares of the field. That 10 hectares is where I am situated now and have planted potatoes on it. This is thanks to the support we got for free from the Blouberg Agri-Services Hub.”
The hub’s market support has also helped Negota realise a big dream of his – exporting. He now also has access to international markets such as Mozambique, Lesotho and Botswana.
Recently, four farmers who are part of the hub harvested 204 tons of potatoes for Simba, a South African snack food manufacturer mainly operating in South Africa.
Phophi Raletjeba, farmer and managing director of Raletjena Farming, is one of them. On his 1 400-hectare farms, he cultivates potatoes, peppadews, and livestock. Raletjeba says the Blouberg Agri-Services Hub is quite important for their area.
“The hub is going to play a critical role in helping farmers deal with mechanisation issues, access to finance and technical production skills.
“That is likely to increase production in the area, resulting in each small-holder farmer growing their capacity. As they grow in capacity and market access that is bound to result in job creation for the population of municipal area,” he says.
Big plans for Limpopo
CEO of Agda Leona Archary says they were appointed by De Beers to develop an agricultural strategy for the Blouberg-Musina area.
One of the priority projects that came out of this was the development of a hub which included a packing, washing, and sorting facility to support the growth of the potato farmers, as well as the vegetable farmers in the area.
Agda has developed a business plan worth R140 million for potato farming for De Beers. The mine has provided R24 million in funding for the Blouberg potato farmers.
“For us, and also De Beers, the biggest driver was [looking at] what the jobs were that we were going to create. It is heartening that we are not only looking at individual projects but regional development and creating an ecosystem around production that support not just jobs but the community at large,” Archary says.
While rural farmers reap the rewards of Agda, the De Beers Group and Anglo American’s collaboration, Archary says they look forward to one day replicating the Blouberg Agri-Services Hub model elsewhere in South Africa.
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