A group of five people from the small farming community of Jagersfontein did not allow poverty and unemployment to get them down. It only made them more determined to succeed.
They started the Lebebe Dairy Project in 1990 to create jobs for local unemployed people. The group has now grown to include 13 women and two men.
In 1994, the Kopanong Local Municipality gave them 708 hectares of land for small-scale farming. They decided to use the land to grow vegetables to sell in the area.
"The money we made was used to open a savings account," said project manager, Mzamo Phatla. Phatla lost his job because the gold mine where he worked closed down. This forced him to find another way of supporting his family.
When the project started growing, the group asked for help from the Free State Department of Agriculture. The Department advised them to start a dairy farm.
"We then asked for help from the Department of Social Development. Through its agency, the National Development Agency (NDA), the department gave us R3 million to start a dairy farming business," Phatla said.
They used the money to buy dairy-farming equipment like machines for milking cows. They also bought a medium-sized truck and a tractor.
Today, the Lebebe Dairy Project has 80 dairy cows which give 250 litres of milk daily. The products they sell include fresh milk, sour milk and yoghurt, as well as cheese and ice lollies.
The products are sold in Jagersfontein, Trompsburg, and Fauresmith. Project members have also signed a contract with the local Olien High School in Jagersfontein to supply milk to the school. Each of the 15 project members get a monthly allowance of R500.
When they started the project, an absence of skills was a problem Phatla said. "For example, most of our members did not get any formal schooling. But the Department of Agriculture has helped us by giving us an advisory officer to mentor project members."
They have also attended skills development courses and training programmes funded by the Department of Labour.
This has helped them a lot to run their project as a farming business. Training included tractor maintenance, first aid, operating milking machines, caring for milk stud cattle, book-keeping, small business management and marketing management.
- Mbulelo Baloyi