KURUMAN – Government’s intentions of revitalizing fallow agricultural land for food security and generating incomes for rural communities has come to fruition for villagers east of Kuruman in the Northern Cape. An all year supply of a mix of vegetables to established retailers has turned Manyeding Agricultural Cooperative into a source of sustenance. Agriculture is usually not associated with an early harvest and communal ventures have not easily yielded success. However, Manyeding Agricultural Cooperative has since its inception in 2010 sowed harmony amongst its beneficiaries and seeded itself with all top-notch Kuruman retailers whom it supplies with a variety of vegetables. Produce such as carrots, spinach, butternut, pumpkin, onions, tomatoes and others have been supplied to the markets since 2013 from just less than 21 hectares that have been under irrigation in open fields.
Applaudable, added to the open fields cultivation of fresh produce are the greenhouses. Greenhouses running on solar power have been erected to the tune of R7 million in an effort to diversify their revenue streams. In contrast, the once upon a time inferiorly perceived pastures that had been part of land dubbed “native reserves” in the apartheid days, has now been transformed into a haven of food security, produce aplenty, permanent job creation and an economic lifeline. Despite being in his salad years, the 33-year-old Kagiso Matebesi heads the everyday activities of Manyeding Agricultural Cooperative with aplomb as the Financial-cum-General Manager. Having started off as an ordinary worker in 2010 upon the inception of the enterprise, Matebesi together with other beneficiaries have got something to write home about. The Matebesi household is one of the 158 that are set for lifelong income with the cooperative keeping on to bear fruit. “I mean from the hydroponics (greenhouses) we made a net profit of R70 000 from a harvest of end of March 2017 from what we had planted in September 2016. We have a moral obligation towards all the beneficiary households in ensuring that we create an ideal scenario with each household deriving an income each month and soonest,” enthused Matebesi.
“I returned home to my elderly parents having dropped out from my accounting studies at the University of the North West and it hasn’t been all lost as I have been able to put what I have learned to good use and earned from it. Our cooperative is on an upward trajectory. Government has been good to us and Kumba Iron Ore has equally been generous and we trust more is to come in our push to at least use 50 hectares of the 158 hectares at our disposal,” indicated Matebesi. Some more good news is that the provincial department of agriculture will be expanding the greenhouses with an additional two tunnels worth R6 million making it four in total and worth a total expenditure of R11 million. The department’s extension officer is Goitsing Molaolwe, “we are stunned by the immediate success we have had with the greenhouses. They’re supplying cucumbers and tomatoes to FreshMark of Shoprite-Checkers, Pick n Pay and Spar. Theirs is a model rural enterprise that amplifies hardwork and commitment.” Pick ‘n Pay Kuruman’s Fresh Produce Manager, Driaan Van Zyl gave the cooperative the thumbs up by commending them for the supply of quality and presentable produce. “Consumer trends are in their favour as more consumers are conscious of buying local and better quality. What you find on the shelves is their labeling and all we add on is our barcoding. Their produce sells out quite quickly and now we also procuring produce from their greenhouses such as cucumbers and tomatoes.
The demand for more is huge,” emphasised Van Zyl. Only 20 hectares are currently under irrigation with an allocation of 34 hectares of water rights. Some good engineering also came into play. The water is pumped into a dam and drawn through pipes from a fountain some 35 kilometres away. The venture boasts all kinds of mechanization from the visible centre pivot in the open fields, sprinklers wetting other designated plots, tractors and bakkies that bring the happy song of those aboard, to the equipment in the pack houses and the decision making in the boardroom and offices that are well furnished. The infrastructure and the other tools of the trade committed towards the cooperatives brought the agriculture department’s investment in the cooperative to a heartening R17 million to date. Another key stakeholder in the affairs of the cooperative is the senior branch of the Batlhaping ba Phuduhutswana chieftaincy, the BagaJantjie Tribal Authority under whose jurisdiction the beneficiary households of the villages of Manyeding, Magagwe, GaMothibi, Kaelengwe, Makubung, Gamasepa and Makubung falls. The cooperative also owns Nguni cattle and Boer goats donated by government.