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Rural cooperatives generate millions

Written by Siya Miti
Government funding is giving farmers in the Eastern Cape a boost.

Eastern Cape farmers are now participants in the agro-processing value chain, thanks to government funding. 

In March this year, Eastern Cape Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane introduced branded maize products produced by six Mqanduli farming cooperatives to the local retail sector.

For the first time the farmers were able to sell their super maize meal and samp at a retail supermarket in King Williams Town. Their product is available in 10.5kg, 12.5kg and 40kg packs.

This move also saw the launch of the rural cooperatives from the Mqanduli Rural Enterprise Development (RED) Hub as commercial farmers and food processors. Eastern Cape rural farmers are benefitting from the land through government-funded initiatives.

The government-funded Mqanuli RED Hub, which is in its third year, has potential to generate income for the roughly 300 farmers who run it, said Mqanduli RED hubs representative Sithembele Zibi who is a qualified lawyer.

“This RED Hub programme takes our produce through the value chain until it reaches the market and it has changed our lives. As we speak our children are employed as tractor drivers or in the milling plants where they are getting trained,” said Zibi.

MEC Qoboshiyane encouraged communities to use the land to be productive.

“We must understand we are now joining a serious business. If we don’t produce, food will be expensive. If you are given a house free of charge, cultivate the land so that you can eat and sell the surplus.”

Presenting Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA)’s latest annual results, ECRDA chief executive Thozamile Gwanya said the provincial agricultural development agency had approved R14.8 million in loans to rural entrepreneurs in the 2015/16 financial year.

“Besides the loan facility that was made for maize crop production at the Mqanduli and Ncora RED hubs, there are also informal groups of subsistence farmers who, because of their small pockets of land, are encouraged to apply as groups in order to qualify for production loans,” Gwanya
explained.

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