Enough is enough! This is exactly how a group of 20 women in the Northern Cape felt when it dawned on them that food in their community was not only hard to find, but also unaffordable to most people. So, they did something about it and started a co-op.
The group established the Kenhardt Primary Agricultural Cooperative. The majority women-owned cooperative in the heart of Kenhardt, Northern Cape is on a mission to address food insecurity and create easier access to food for the locals.
Officially registered in June last year, the agri co-op operates on six hectares, growing gem squash, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut and tomatoes. Processing grapes, wild cucumbers and wild watermelons into delicious jams is another component of their business.
Their fresh produce and processed goods are sold at local and regional markets throughout the year. They also have a few goats.
Harrisinah Theka, economic development specialist for Aries Solar Power, says the vegetable garden project was birthed due to a shortage of food in the community.
She says residents also had to travel long distances to get to the nearest town to buy essentials. “To buy vegetables and herbs they [have] go as far as Upington. This is due to lack of farming in the area. There’s also water shortage as most boreholes are not functional.”
Aries Solar Power is a solar power company that seeks to help shift South Africa towards clean energy production. Through their enterprise development programme, they have partnered with the cooperative to help ensure that the co-op is set up correctly and viable for the future.
Leverage off each other’s strengths
Thanks to a recent completion of a two-day governance and compliance training programme through Aries Solar Power, the group of women are one step closer to achieving their goal of food security in Kenhardt and building an enterprise that is sustainable.
Theka explains the reason for the training was to capacitate members of the farming cooperative with different forms of farming and methods.
“[We wanted] to educate and advise the cooperative members on what commodity to plant and in which season to plant it. Importantly, it was to train them on how best to move as a cooperative,” Theka says.
Chairperson of the cooperative, Anna Cloete, says after recognising a general lack of agricultural skills and stigma about farming amongst the youth in the community, they saw an opportunity to combine their skills, knowledge, and farming experience to address food security and access to food for locals.
“We are so grateful for the assistance provided to help our business grow. We are now as cooperative members able to operate at our full potential making it possible to provide more affordable food options to the community,” she says.
According to Theka, the group of women are destined for greatness. She adds that the co-op board displays a high level of passion and dedication to succeed, as revealed by an in-depth feasibility study.
“More so, the board is cohesive and have the ability to work together to leverage off each other’s strengths. It is our hope that with the correct management guidance the co-op will become successful.”
With their focus being a sustainable agricultural business in the long-run, the group of women have their eyes set on new heights. With the backing of Aries Solar Power they are sure exceed beyond their own expectations.
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