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Growing women farmers

Written by Sulaiman Philip
The Department of Small Business Development, South African Breweries (SAB) and the Agricultural Research Council hope to help 5 000 women maize farming co-operatives join the breweries supply chain by 2020.

Ekangala Primary Co-operative is a 100 per cent women-owned agriculture business and was one of the first of 11 co-operatives to join the Women in Maize programme in 2016. Before joining the programme, the women of Ekangala had just 15 hectares under maize cultivation. Now they have increased that to 45 hectares and expect to harvest 225 tons of maize.

The programme’s 120 female farmers harvested 1 800 hectares of maize in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and North West last year. The impressive first year harvest represents just nine per cent of SAB’s needs.

As more farmers are signed up, SAB hopes to increase the number of women farmers in their supply chain.

Over the next five years, the multimillion rand investment by SAB will draw in 5 000 women farmers to become preferred suppliers to the brewer. The intention is to stimulate local economies by giving them a guaranteed market for their crops.

As SAB’s Executive Director Corporate Affairs and Transformation, Monwabisi Fandeso, explained when the group celebrated the first harvest in the programme, “We work with small-scale farmers to overcome these challenges while ensuring land is used responsibly, food supply is secure, biodiversity is protected and crops can be accessed at reasonable prices.”

As well as market access, farmers in the Women in Maize programme get financial assistance and help with skills training. For SAB, sourcing from established local supply chains helps to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

Stronger rural economies will also create jobs and strengthen local economies, which will help government meet its goal of one million agricultural jobs created by 2030.

“This initiative is an example of how much we can achieve when government and the private sector work together. The task of ensuring that the Ekangala Co-operative and others across the country grow and thrive, rests on our collective shoulders,” said Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu at the celebration of the first harvest.