An inspirational businesswoman has changed her focus from empowering other companies to succeed, to becoming a farmer and ensuring her own success.
If you asked Lusanda Moletsane (42) 15 years ago if she would consider a career in agriculture or farming, her answer would have been a definite ‘no’.
“I mean… I wore black suits and worked in an office at the beginning of my career. I worked for a consulting firm and I had no idea I would be here [farming] today,” she says.
Her business, Khumo Ea Tsebo, is Tiger Brand’s largest black, women-owned aggregator of small white beans.
Aggregators enable small-scale farmers to secure a market for their produce by sourcing a crop – such as beans, in this case – from the farmers to secure the quantities needed by corporates such as Tiger Brands.
Established 16 years ago, Khumo Ea Tsebo used to specialise in implementing turnaround solutions for manufacturing businesses that were not doing well.
In 2007, the business was contracted to turnaround farms, in various parts of the country, that were not doing well.
By 2009, Khumo Ea Tsebo had picked up on the trends and knew that some businesses were not going to make it because the country experienced an economic recession.
The company then shifted its focus to assisting black-owned farms and started bidding for agricultural tenders.
“We assisted farmers to commercialise their businesses and equipped them with record-keeping skills because, once they supply retailers with their outputs, they need to provide clear records of what went into production – from when they planted seeds to harvest time,” says Moletsane.
Agriculture aggregator programme
Her success story began towards the end of 2020, when Tiger Brands brought Khumo Ea Tsebo onboard its agriculture aggregator programme.
Tiger Brands' agriculture aggregator model is aimed at uplifting small-scale farmers and ensuring economic development.
The company’s large delivery requirements have previously made it difficult for small-scale farmers to be part of its supply chain. The aggregator model is meant to address this challenge.
Black small-scale farmers are aggregated into collectives that are able deliver the capacity and quality Tiger Brands needs.
The company provides the farmers with finance, agrarian and agricultural technical support and development support to ensure their success.
Tiger Brands supported Khumo Ea Tsebo with about R10 million, which included a low-interest loan, technical support funding for inputs, mechanisation, diesel, harvesting and funds to pay labourers.
Partnering for success
Through the deal, Khumo Ea Tsebo has to supply Tiger Brands with small white beans by mid-2021.
For this project, Moletsane’s business is operating from two farming clusters – in Nigel in Sedibeng, and Bronkhorstspruit near Tshwane.
“I have established partnerships with other landowners and farmers to carry out this project successfully. I am very grateful for this opportunity,” she says.
Khumo Ea Tsebo has already created employment for more than 65 people.
Roots in farming
Although she never dreamed of being a farmer and graduated with a degree in social sciences, Moletsane has always loved plants and gardening.
Growing up in the Ezibeleni Township in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, Moletsane helped her mom grow vegetables and flowers.
“My mother grew up in the rural areas, where eating fresh vegetables from the fields was the norm. Even later, when she had her own family, she still loved to plant and keep a vegetable garden. I was the only one of my siblings who would garden with her,” she explains.
Moletsane wants to ensure that her efforts make a meaningful contribution to the businesses, farmers and the country.
“I want my life’s legacy to be all the businesses that we've turned around, all the farmers that we've commercialised, and all the fallow lands that we have made productive.
“When we have 100 000 hectares under our care in five years’ time, then I’m going to say that I am helping to feed the nation.”
Tiger Brands’ Enterprise and Supplier Development Director Litha Kutta says: “A small farmer with a
100-hectare farm or even a 1 000-hectare farm, would never be able to supply a pan-African food manufacturer such as Tiger Brands, if you consider the tonnage required to supply our demand.
“However, through our aggregator programme, we are able to aggregate and empower small farmers with supported access to the formal agricultural market.”
Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza and a team from Tiger Brands recently visited Khumo Ea Tsebo to showcase the impact that small agricultural farmers have on food producers’ supply chains.