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Great strides towards rural development

Written by Mbulelo Baloyi

Focus on the provinces: Free State

Rural development is one of government's key priorities and some provincial governments are taking great strides in this field. The Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development started various schemes to help emerging farmers in the province. These include a Nguni cattle project, food security programmes and goat farming projects.

Different farming co-operatives in different districts of the Free State received 80 heifers and 16 Nguni bulls as part of the Nguni Cattle Scheme. The main objective of the scheme is to ensure that there is an ongoing programme of breeding for this kind of cattle. Nguni cattle are well-known for their resistance to harsh conditions such as drought.

Among the areas that received heifers are the BVQ Farmland Trust, Buckland Family Trust, Moalosi Farm and the Ngxito Trust.

Goats

The Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has also made available funding for women's co-operatives to start a goat-farming business. This will include agri-processing and value adding projects such as dairy operations using goat's milk to make cheese.

More than R2 million was also set aside to assist farmers in various other agricultural activities.

Vegetables

In the Xhariep (Gariep) district, the Department has funded farming projects at a cost of R7,6 million. These include vegetable production, poultry infrastructure, dairy production and food processing plants.

In addition, the Department has also made it possible for emerging farmers to partner with experienced commercial farmers and farmer organisations.

These organisations include the Oos Vrystaat Koöperasie, Grain South Africa based in Bothaville and the Vrystaat Koöperasie Beperk (VKB).

These programmes have benefited farmers in Shekeshe Soutpan Salt, Amona Enterprise and the Bethlehem Farmers Trust.

Women farmers

Known as the bread basket of South Africa, the Free State Agriculture Department is also encouraging young females to actively participate in animal production.

Using platforms like the Female Entrepreneur of the Year (formerly known as the Female Farmer of the Year), the department hopes to motivate a number of young women who want to make farming a career of choice.

Two young women from the eastern Free State have made a name for themselves with their successful farming enterprise called Mochochonono. The name, which refers to a bird that flies high, befits these two young women who are flying high on success.

Cousins Nthabiseng Mokoena (21) and Palesa Mokoena (19) from the Tsheseng Village in Qwaqwa, were the Free State winners in the Top Young Entrepreneur Category in the 2010 Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

Success story

The two cousins run their fresh produce Mochochonono farm from their village and they produce a variety of vegetables including garlic, pepper and cabbage.

They supply local supermarkets with fresh produce. Their success story is remarkable that neither of them has formal training in vegetable and crop production.

It is thanks to their grandparents who used to farm on the patch of family land that the seeds of interest in farming were planted in the minds of the granddaughters.

Livestock farming

For Palesa and Nthabiseng, helping their grandparents in their small farming business became an afterschool chore.

After winning the 2010 Top Young Entrepreneur in the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Competition, the two cousins have now set their sight on livestock farming.

They agreed to use the R25 000 prize money to start their livestock farming business.

The cousins are very much aware that cattle farming or any kind of livestock farming needs double efforts and determination.

The know that livestock farming has its ups and downs and realise that there is always a risk of stock theft, outbreak of disease, and drought. So they must have the will to succeed.

Support

Drawing from their successful running of the Mochochonono Farm, the two cousins say nothing will stand in their way to become successful livestock farmers in the future.

"It is the same as the time when we started our vegetable farming business. Originally, it was just to help us have fresh produce for our own use as we believed we could save a lot of money by growing our own vegetables. But in no time, we started selling to local villagers and stalls, and as they say – the rest is history," said Nthabiseng.

She added that the support they got from their customers encouraged them to grow their farming business as more people and supermarkets relied on them for supplying fresh produce.

Cherry on top

"For us, winning in the Top Young Entrepreneur category in the Female Entrepreneur of The Year Competition was just like the cherry on top of the cake, as we felt it was the recognition and appreciation of our hard work."

The two cousins have approached the local municipality about obtaining vacant land which they can use to grow their business.