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Updated 03 February 2020

Community establishes farming cooperative to fight hunger

Limpopo leads the SA stats on households with adequate access to food, thanks to groups like Letsitele Agricultural Cooperative.

Farming is regarded as an integral part in addressing inadequate food access in a country such as South Africa, where 20% of households have unreliable and scant access to food, according to Statistics South Africa.

In 1999, small-scale farmers in Limpopo heeded the call to produce their own food and formed Letsitele Agricultural Cooperative – and are still going strong.

Fresh, healthy local produce

The cooperative, which consists of 184 members, meet together and farm with the aim of producing vegetables, creating jobs and fostering sustainable food security.

“When we established the cooperative, we aimed to address poverty challenges and create job opportunities in the area by creating a platform where each member plants various crops,” said Simon Moagi, the cooperative’s secretary.

The members then sell their products to supermarkets and residents and take produce home to their families. By distributing food in this way, the cooperative hopes to increase the availability of fresh and healthy local produce that is available to the community.

“We know that it leads to the alleviation of social ills, such as crime, and that families do not go to bed on an empty stomach,” said Moagi.

However, a lack of water has been a stumbling block to the cooperative’s productivity, but the department of agriculture and rural development has provided a helping hand. 

Aiming for zero hunger

“The majority of the members grow maize only in summer when it rains, but we are working towards the fields being productive throughout the year. At the moment they [the department] drilled one borehole on the farm and we are looking for more holes to be drilled. Sooner or later there will be enough water for everyone,” he explained.

The cooperative operates on the Naphuno Farm, and every member is allocated one hectare to plough crops for their own needs and benefit. Milling companies such as Phakhathi and Champ in Nkowankowa often buy maize from the cooperative.

Cooperatives, like Letsitele, meet departmental efforts to reach zero hunger in the province and speak to the calls made by government to increase communities’ participation in farming to address socio-economic and food security issues.

“We preach the gospel of own food production because, as you know, food is expensive. For us, as a mostly rural province, we make sure to encourage and support the communities, households and even farmers to make sure there is food production. This food production is not only for their own family’s consumption but to sell to local residents. In that way we are able to make sure that most people have food on their table,” said Ramatsimele Jacqueline Maisela, head of the local department of agriculture and rural development.

Tractor services

In a 2017 survey on food security by Stats SA, Limpopo and Gauteng households reported the highest proportion of adequate food access. Maisela said that although the department is concerned about food security throughout the country. "The positive thing is that Limpopo ranks the highest in terms of the numbers of households that have adequate access to food.”

She continued: “However, that doesn’t mean that we should stop there. We should still continue to make sure that we achieve zero hunger, and to that end we are running quite a number of programmes to assist households in producing food either in their backyard garden or community gardens.”

Maisela explained that one of the successful initiatives is the Fetsa Tlala programme, which was launched nationally by former president Jacob Zuma in 2013.

“As Limpopo we fully adopted the programme, and what we do is encourage people to farm. We support them in the form of mechanisation. In other words, we supply them with tractor services. We have a few tractors as departmental assets, but to augment that we also contract private owners to help our communities plough their lands. And now, we reviewed the programme to cover different facets of agriculture like fruit production,” she said.

- Health-e News

Image credit: Henry Be/Unsplash

 
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