As South Africa celebrates a generation of freedom, Anglo American acknowledges its deep roots in the country and looks ahead to its contribution in the next 25 years and beyond. Over the next five weeks experience 25 Reasons to Believe with City Press as we explore the economy, job creation, enterprise development, health, land reform, sustainability, education, technology and – most important of all – the communities
The scourge of unemployment and lack of economic opportunities are harsh realities faced by residents in villages like Kromhoek (Ga-Makgato) in the remote Blou-berg district in Limpopo.
But an enterprising group of residents is on a mission to change that through an ambitious agricultural project backed by Anglo American’s diamond business, De Beers Group.
When it’s finally in operation, Kromhoek Moringa Primary Co-operative Limited will boast 20 000 moringa trees on 20 hectares of land. It is expected that the project will create 100 jobs for every 20 hectares of moringa trees planted.
The co-operative of six women and five men already has a five-year contract to supply the leaves of the medicinal plant to a local processing company Botanica Natural Products.
Kromhoek is the beneficiary of a R1.7 million grant from De Beers Group, a subsidiary of Anglo American. The company has partnered with German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, Old Mutual and the Industrial Development Corporation.
Anglo American’ diamond business, De Beers Group operates one of the world’s biggest open-cast diamond mines, Venetia, in far northwestern Limpopo. The mine is the major employer in this part of the world. The area’s economy also relies largely on game farming, agriculture and tourism.
An estimated 15% of Kromhoek’s residents are employed by Venetia.
Those who are not employed by the mine work either as seasonal or full-time workers on farms in the area, and many others are migrant workers.
The SA National Census of 2011 recorded that there were 1 090 households in Kromhoek, which had a population of 4 255. The dependency ratio was 82.5% in a community where 56.6% of households were headed by women.
Faced with the reality that Venetia, which has created an estimated 1 500 jobs, cannot possibly employ everyone from all of the villages in its vicinity, Lema Makgato rallied his fellow residents to establish the co-operative.
Young people like Makgato understand the frustration of being unemployed all too well – he’s been unable to find a job since he completed matric.
He considered taking the well-worn path followed by many from his village over the years to go and look for work in Gauteng.
But when Willie Coetzee, who runs Botanica in nearby Vivo, approached the Makgato Traditional Authority with his idea of a moringa farm, Makgato realised this was an opportunity to break the cycle of migrant labour and unemployment.
“I don’t think you can get an opportunity such as this one in Gauteng,” says Makgato as he stands on the open, freshly cleared field that stretches as far as the eye can see.
It is here that, once a water licence is granted and the area is connected to the electricity grid, the co-operative hopes to make its dream a reality.
The land was donated by the traditional authority.
One of the members of the co-operative, Joyce Moshokgo, has already undergone training to learn the finer points of growing and tending moringa.
“We learnt a lot,” says Moshokgo, adding that the training emphasised the importance of sticking to organic means of production – one of the key drivers of the project.
Once in full-scale production, the project is expected to create at least 80 direct jobs.
“We want to grow beyond the 20 hectares,” says Makgato.
“We want to go even up to 1 000 hectares. We want to explore other opportunities beyond moringa.”
Moringa is a drought-resistant crop that has gained popularity among farmers throughout Africa. It is revered for its highly nutritious value for people and animals.
Its leaves, bark and roots are used in the manufacture of cosmetics, medicine and food supplements. Studies estimate that the harnessing of moringa products has grown into a multimillion-dollar business.
Moshako Matambatshikha is hoping to tap into this lucrative market.
She serves as the co-operative’s secretary and comes from a family of seven, all of whom are unemployed. If the co-operative succeeds, she will become the family’s breadwinner and help to empower her siblings.
“If we look after this project ,we will reduce unemployment and crime,” says Matambatshikha.
“I will be able to look after my family. And the people we employ here will also be able to look after their families,” she says.
For now, the land looks empty, but it holds the dreams of an entire village, which is anxious to get to work.