Tackling rural poverty through gardening

2016-04-14 06:00
PHOTO: supplied Thulisile Madlala, from KwaMadlala in her garden in the first year of production.

PHOTO: supplied Thulisile Madlala, from KwaMadlala in her garden in the first year of production.

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Kumnandi means “it’s good” or “delicious” in Zulu and the KwaZulu-Natal organic, fresh produce brand is living up to its name as it helps alleviate rural poverty by creating hundreds of home gardens that provide families with food security, market profits and much needed social development.

The brand is supported by NPO Siyavuna that trains families in the rural communities in the Ugu district to grow organic fruit and vegetables.

There are approximately 600 smallholder farmers in the programme, of which 84% are women. These farmers feed themselves and their families first and then sell excess produce on a weekly basis. The produce is then sold in urban areas under the Kumnandi brand.

“Kumnandi is becoming a household name and most of our customers buy the brand because of the social upliftment story behind it. Some of our customers are also focused on the fact that the produce is organically grown,” says Siyavuna director Diane Pieters

Trained to produce organically, farmers are monitored through a participatory guarantee system, or PGS, which provides an affordable alternative to expensive third party certification. PGS revolves around transparency, trust, peer review and knowledge sharing, and relies on a group of people from the community, such as farmers, retailers and consumers, to go and inspect farms.

“Having a PGS is good for us,” says chairperson of Gcilima Farmers’ Association and the HCM Co-operative, Themba Lushaba.

“If any of the farmers have doubts about growing organically, there is always somebody who can visit, teach and advise them.

“PGS, as adopted by Siyavuna and similar organic farming communities in South Africa, is proving to be effective, assuring customers of the way products are produced and empowering smallholder farmers,” says Anri Landman, supporting smallholder agriculture project manager from the Southern Africa Food Lab.

Lindiwe Hlophe started farming with Siyavuna at the end of 2012 and today, grows 17 types of vegetables on her two hectares. She was recently awarded 2015 Farmer of the Year for the Hibiscus Coast.

“I was excited from the start and despite some water and drought challenges, I have always wanted to be number one in what I do.”

Hlophe said PGS helps you understand what they have signed up for.

“We do farm visits and see how other farmers do things. Next year the Farmer of the Year award will be for the whole Ugu district and I have set my sights on winning again,” said Hlope.

Siyavuna and Kumnandi are pioneering a model for poverty alleviation, food security and meaningful employment in the rural areas.

- Supplied.

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