Thandeka Sifunda (33) is the chairperson of Umsekelaze Cooperative which recently received a R4 million worth packhouse which will be used to store and pack fresh fruit and vegetables before they are sold.
The packhouse was handed over to cooperatives in the Nkomazi Local Municipality by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Nokuzola Capa, together with Mpumalanga MEC for Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs, Busisiwe Shiba recently.
The handover of the Mzinti Mini Packhouse means that local farmers, who are mostly young people, will no longer worry about their fresh produce rotting. They will now be able to store their produce it in a place where it will remain fresh for a longer period.
“Before this development, we had relied heavily on the old method of sprinkling water on our harvest to keep it fresh, and that was not helping us,” said Sifunda.
She explained that their cooperative is based in Ka-Mdladla, Nkomazi and is managed by young people between the ages of 27 and 33. It was registered as a cooperative in 2019 but had been operating informally since 2010.
“It has always been a painful experience to watch our produce rot because our target market could not consume all our goods in a very short period of time,” she said.
The local cooperatives produce red onions, strawberries, cabbages, tomatoes, butternuts, beetroot, green and red peppers.
“The initiative does not only help us as cooperatives that are in operation, but will also help in unearthing upcoming farmers who will see its importance. There may be other young people who are sitting at home, totally discouraged to start their own farming businesses because they fear that they might lose all their stock, but now that there is a packhouse in our area,” Sifunda added.
Umsekelaze Cooperative has five full-time employees, but also employs casual workers to assist when there are additional farm tasks that need to be completed.
For more information about the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural visit www.dalrrd.gov.za