Sowing the seeds of success

The skills Anna Kgaretswe has acquired is turning around the fortunes of her community.

A Jojo tank and vegetable tunnels dot Kgaretswe’s yard in Majakaneng, in the North West, which she has converted into a vegetable farm for the benefit of both her family and community.

The 49-year-old is one of the beneficiaries of the Sibanye-Stillwater Marikana Renewal initiative, implemented by SocioTech and Umsizi.

SocioTech and Umsizi are service providers who have a long-standing and fruitful relationship of cutting-edge innovation in the Southern African socio-economic developmental landscape, leading to the empowerment of thousands of households.

Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) programme, which has empowered many rural communities with sustainable socio-economic development options, Kgaretswe has been able to grow her business and transfer skills to others.

The BBL strategies (BBL MyFood, BBL MyBusiness and BBL MyFuture) to stimulate personal economic activity, has helped Kgaretswe to acquire agricultural skills and apply the knowledge learnt to create a successful food gardening business.

As the 10th anniversary of the Marikana Massacre approaches, SAnews visited Kgaretswe to look at how the projects by Sibanye have benefited the communities around Marikana.

Speaking to SAnews at her home in Majakaneng, Kgaretswe recalls how a Socio-Tech representative approached her in 2017.

The representative explained how she could grow her then small vegetable patch into something bigger.

That conversation provided the sprouting roots to a self-sustaining business that also empowers the Majakaneng community to grow their own fresh produce.

“Through them I learnt about developing the soil and growing [food] God’s way – organically, without chemicals. I have found this method to be very successful. I now supply street vendors who sell vegetables in my area and also supply small catering businesses that sell in the streets,” she said.

The programme provided the novice farmer with seeds, material for vegetable tunnels and buckets to water the vegetables. The process was no walk in the park, but she stuck it out and erected the first tunnel.

Last year, Kgaretswe walked away with a SocioTech award and used the prize to put up a second tunnel.

Reaping the rewards

Through the business, Kgaretswe has been able to support her family while also having the ability to save.

“I am able to save a lot of money every month. I can buy food and everything I need from the money I make from selling these vegetables. Sibanye-Stillwater has also taken us through a budget course so that we learn how to use the money we make from our businesses. That has helped me a lot,” she said.

She pointed out the importance of drawing up a budget. “If you budget anything is possible.”

“This JoJo tank that you see here in my yard and the borehole are both the result of that saving. The borehole cost R27 000 and I saved for it. I took the budget course very seriously and it worked for me when the money started coming in.”

The fledging business has benefitted the North West community, particularly when COVID-19 hit.

“I sell my vegetables at affordable prices. Most community members and those who sell in the streets [buy their] stock from me. We help each other so that we can all have food on the table.

“They come to me because my prices are good and the quality of my produce is high. I charge R5 for lettuce, which is much less [than what is charged] by supermarkets. The cost of living is so high at the moment and most people in this area are poor.”

It also helps that the entrepreneur has confidence in her produce saying it has a long shelf life.

Kgaretswe has a clear plan to expand her business for future growth and venture into poultry farming.

“I am planning to extend my vegetable farm to a second stand that I have. I just need material for tunnels. I am also planning to hire two more people to help with the expansion.”

Skills transfer

Transferring the skills she has learnt in her venture continues to fulfil her.

Through the Phinda Phinda programme that is part of the programmes offered by SocioTech, Kgaretswe has trained about 16 people on how to start their own vegetable gardens.

The programme’s teaching methods are designed to create a learning culture that promotes the transfer of knowledge and skills to friends, family and neighbours.

“When my business began to grow, people in the community could not believe it and started asking me how I do it. I told them to come to school because Sibanye is here for all of us. We must help each other to put food on the table.

“I am part of a community that supports each other. One of the things I like about SocioTech is that it teaches us to think and act, remembering that as a community, we need more and more people to be successful. It is satisfying to see the growth of all those I helped train,” she said.

Tshepo Kgasago, Head of Community Engagement and Development for Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) Region South Africa, explains that Sibanye appointed an external service provider who is qualified to provide training. Sibanye’s role was to identify potential beneficiaries, which are mostly women and youth in the Majakaneng area.

“We identified a number of them; took them through the training via the service provider and provided startup input for funding as well as the buying of seeds and other materials. We fertilised the land and they started planting,” he said.

Kgasago said the project started in Kgaretswe’s yard and moved on to other community members.

“We funded all the tunnels you see in these yards around the community. The idea is that one will plant one or two vegetables [that are] different from their neighbour to encourage interaction and when they harvest they can exchange [their produce],” Kgasago said.

He added that Sibanye is building a hub in Marikana once everybody is up and running at Kgaretswe’s level.

“The aim is to create jobs at the centre as well as where people are planting. We have already spoken to the Tshwane Market and they are interested in supporting this initiative,” said Kgasago.

Kgaretswe’s harvest has not only benefitted her household but the seeds of that harvest will continue to sprout for her community for many seasons to come.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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