Perseverance, patience and determination are key attributes for any aspiring farmer.
This is according to Mammie Mamkeli who helps run the Ikemisetseng Agricultural Cooperative in Tweefontein near Thaba Nchu in the Free State.
Mamkeli and her partners started the cooperative in 2010 when they realised that unemployment in the area was rising every year.
“We realised that there were no jobs in our area for people after matric and came together to find what we could do to create a source of income for ourselves,” she says.
Over the years, the cooperative has received grant funding from the National Development Agency (NDA) and an infrastructure grant through the then Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
In 2011, Ikemisetseng won R50 000 in the Best Nutritional Cooperative competition (food security category). In 2013, they won another R50 000 in the Women in Water Awards, run by the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (water conservation category). Then in 2015, they won R15 000 at the district level of the Best Female Farmers and R36 000 at the national level.
The cooperative used the prize money to buy a delivery vehicle and other items.
However, despite these successes, they battled for years to break into the market. “In 2013, we started supplying spinach, beetroot and onions to two schools…
“We were then approached by the Department of Social Development (DSD) to supply their Community Nutritional Development Centres and that became our bread basket,” she says.
Then disaster hit in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic and heavy rains.
Fortunately, as a food security cooperative, Ikemisetseng qualified for the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s COVID-19 Agricultural Disaster Support Fund for smallholder and communal farmers. They were awarded a R50 000 purchase voucher, which they used to buy seedlings and other planting materials.
Despite the hard times they have endured over the past three years, Mamkeli says she would ‘happily encourage the youth to go into farming’ and to take advantage of government’s different funding models.
For more information on NDA grant funding,visit https://www.nda.org.za/services/CSO-grant-funding-and-resource-mobilisation or call 011 018 5500