With much glitter and razzmatazz, Toyota South Africa Motors and Agri SA lifted the veil on a brand-new competition category during this year’s Toyota SA/Agri SA Young Farmer and New Harvest ceremony. In a historic moment, the Vooruitkyk Cooperative was announced as the winners of the Communal Farming Association of the Year title, a first for agriculture in the country.
The 18-year-long prestigious award ceremony was held at the Radisson Hotel in Johannesburg on Thursday, 17 November with top players in agriculture in attendance.
Representing the winning cooperative at the gala event were Mariana Joseph and Samuel Willems. They both shared their gratitude for the immense support that Toyota and Agri SA have shown towards the farmers.
“We knew we were nominated but to actually win was beyond our expectations, simply because we are at the beginning stages.” Joseph said.
A massive boost
Having not had much exposure before, the R150 000 will help Vooruitkyk Cooperative to do more on the farms and grow as a community.
“We could never take part in competitions because we never knew about it. We have no signal in our area, in the Kamiesberg,” Joseph said.
The Vooruitkyk Cooperative based in the Northern Cape, consists of 27 farmers, of which seven are young farmers and nine are women.
The rise of communal farmers
According to conservation stewardship manager at Conservation International, Melinda Gardiner, “The significance of the new category of communal farmers of the year is to acknowledge [their] contribution. A huge part of South Africa are communal lands. Apart from that, people underestimated the contribution that [these] people make.”
She said that communal areas play an important role as a buffer against poverty. It is also a place where new farmers can develop and grow and build on that sense of community.
“Though communal farming cannot compare to commercial farming, it has a place, and it plays a really valuable role. It’s a place where everyone can supplement what they earn and become independent,” said Gardiner.
The Vooruitkyk Cooperative group went up against the Mokgapeng Farmers Cooperative in Mpumalanga and the Welverdiend B Cooperative in (province).
Joseph added that they would be looking at building their capacity. “We currently don’t have an office. We have applied at the municipality for a building, and we are still waiting for a response,” she said.
The evening also saw Hannes Wolvaardt walking away with the Toyota SA/Agri SA Young Farmer of the Year title and Vumile Mzinizi bagging the New Harvest 2022 title. Both winners walked away with brand-new Toyota Hilux bakkies.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.