After completing matric in 2004, Donald Sekwati was determined to prove that a young person could make a living out of farming.
So in 2005, he teamed up with six others, including two disabled community members, to start a farming business. Together they formed and registered the Kopano Disabled Cooperative.
The group were given land for their venture through the Limpopo Department of Agriculture’s Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) Programme.
The cooperative grows green beans, butternut, cabbage, tomatoes and sweet corn on the farm in Rooibokkop, about 30km from Marble Hall, in Limpopo’s Sekhukune District Municipality.
“Young people tend to disregard the farming profession when in fact there are a lot of opportunities in this field. I joined this cooperative because I wanted to be an example to my peers and show them that farming is a career that young people could look into,” Sekwati said.
He credits the cooperative with changing his life, as he can now support his family through the income he receives as a cooperative member.
“The farming sector is sustainable because people need to eat. Produce can be sold to the community and supermarkets. I believe I chose the right career and I would encourage other young people to get involved in farming.”
Sekwati, who is the secretary of the business, explained that in 2005 the cooperative received 170 hectares of land through LRAD Programme.
Since then the cooperative has grown and now has 14 employees, including the two that are disabled.
“We also have contracts with McCain and Tiger Brands to supply them with our produce,” said Sekwati.
During the 2012 harvest season, the cooperative delivered 16 tons of green beans, exceeding the projected 11 tons.
The cooperative received assistance from the National Development Agency (NDA), the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (Leda) - formerly known as the Limpopo Business Support Agency - and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. Leda falls under the Department of Economic Development in Limpopo.
The financial assistance enabled the cooperative to buy equipment such as a tractor, delivery truck and other implements to make their operations more efficient.
They have also received training to help them run the cooperative better.
The NDA Limpopo’s provincial manager, Professor Zach Chuenyane, said the agency was extremely pleased with the cooperative’s success.
“We are very proud of Kopano Disabled Cooperative as they have proved that some communities, with the help that they receive from government, can take development into their own hands and ensure that funded projects are sustainable.”
He pointed out that the NDA is a government agency mandated to contribute to poverty eradication.
Sekwati said the assistance received from NDA and other agencies not only helped the cooperative but also other people in the area.
The cooperative has passed on their skills to other emerging farmers and also created employment opportunities for the locals.
“We would like to expand our business and maybe go into poultry farming. We know that there is potential in that market. We would also like to see each member of the cooperative owning their own farm - that is our bigger plan,” said Sekwati.