Food and beverage company Nestlé gave some inspirational women a pat on the back and a healthy cash injection at the Nestlé Community Nutrition Awards recently.
The awards, which started 20 years ago, honour women who feed their families and communities from their food gardens.
According to Nestlé, the awards are a means for the company to support government and help with some initiatives.
Nestlé believes it has as much responsibility as government to create an environment that is conducive for people to thrive in.
One of the women honoured at the awards was Annah Matlala.
Matlala and her eight partners are part of the Aredirisaneng Primary Cooperative.
Based in Elandsfontein, in Gauteng, the cooperative encourages communities - especially women - to create their own food gardens and ensure food security for themselves.
The cooperative sells spinach and cabbage to the local Fruit and Veg City, President Hyper and the community.
“Our business is doing very well,” a proud Matlala said.
The Aredirisaneng Primary Cooperative walked away with a whopping R25 000 for the Best Female Project in the province during the awards.
The women of the cooperative came together in 2009 after they had a hard time finding jobs and were struggling to provide for their families.
In 2009, the cooperative approached the Department of Agriculture and was offered a six-month training programme in farming and business management.
“Once we had completed the training, the department facilitated a deal with the local Reunion Mine to help us start the business because at that time, we did not even have land to farm.”
Matlala said the mine bought them one hectare of land in Elandsfontein and also arranged more farming training for the women.
“In 2011 we registered the farm and it has been progressing very well. We would like to acquire more land to farm more crops.
“We are working in this farm to make money and feed our families but what is more important is that this business is what makes us happy. We also have a passion for farming.”
Matlala also said the partnership between government and Nestlé and Reunion Mine had made a great difference in their lives.
“We owe much of our success to government and Reunion Mine. The R25 000 we won from Nestlé will be ploughed back into the business.”
The Nestlé awards are also an extension of the company’s Creating Shared Value (CSV) business principle. This principle acknowledges that for a business to be successful in the long term it has to create value not only for its shareholders but also for the society where it operates.
In 2009, Nestlé South Africa expanded the awards to include a schools category. Many schools across the country have started food gardens as part of the National Schools Nutrition Programme in partnership with government.
The vegetables harvested from the gardens are used to create a balanced and nutritious meal for orphaned and vulnerable children in the schools. Through this category, Nestlé is encouraging schools, especially at primary school level, to continue improving their gardens.
Nestlé aims to help the schools make their gardens sustainable through the prize money.