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Former miners hit gold with chickens

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

Five former miners started a legacy agriculture project that not only aims to put food on tables, but to also stop their grandchildren from becoming mine labourers.

The men started the Ubumbano Secondary Cooperative in Gobothi village in Ngcobo, Eastern Cape, after falling on hard times when they left their jobs.Chairperson of the Ubumbano Secondary Cooperative Mzimasi Sotyatho (left) shows off the cooperative's chickens to officials from Rand Mutual Assurance and the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform.

“We were faced with a lot of poverty in our families and we saw that the best way of ending this was to enter the agriculture sector,” says the cooperative’s Chairperson, Mzimasi Sotyatho (71).

“We have over 4 000 chickens that lay anything between 1 200 and 1 800 eggs a day. We sell the eggs to a Spar in Ngcobo and to schools and locals,” he adds.

The cooperative, which was registered in 2019, received funding of R5 million from the Mineworkers Development Agency and Rand Mutual Assurance. It now has 12 permanent employees.

The funding was used to drill a borehole, construct a cold room and purchase a septic tank and a 20kVA backup generator.

The Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform is helping the cooperative with funding to grow, so that it can achieve wholesale sales.

“If this [cooperative] is sustained, generations to come will benefit from it. In the past, people had to leave their homes and go to urban areas to find work. They ended up living in shacks there,” says Eastern Cape MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform Nonkqubela Pieters.

A member of the cooperative, Bulelwa Mbutuma (53), says it has provided jobs for the miners' children. He explains that the cooperative primarily hires the former miners’ children, who will eventually inherit their parent’s position in it. This way, they also leave a legacy for their children.

The Ubumbano Secondary Cooperative also helps smaller cooperatives that farm vegetables. Sotyatho says it assists vegetable farmers to access tractors and agricultural implements, such as ploughs and planters.

“We also buy fertilisers and seeds, which we sell to the primary cooperatives. We also assist these farmers by teaching them how to farm the vegetables and the best times to plant them,"
he adds.

For more information on the assistance offered by the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, contact the department at 040 602 5006.