One year later with inaugural AGCO Agriculture Foundation Award winners
Sustainable farming project helps uMsinga Local Municipality address food security and rural unemployment
One year later with inaugural AGCO Agriculture Foundation Award winnersSustainable farming project helps uMsinga Local Municipality address food security and rural unemployment
In 2019, the AGCO Agriculture Foundation (AAF) announced the Bahle Zondo Foundation (BZF) in South Africa as the first organization globally to receive the newly launched AAF Award. The BZF received the award for its innovative solutions in addressing rural unemployment and creating agri-preneurship opportunities for local women through its work at the uMsinga Farming Project in KwaZulu-Natal.
Starting the uMsinga sustainable farming project
uMsinga Local Municipality is a small rural area with a high rate of poverty and unemployment due to few resources and low economic activity. In 2016, a district survey revealed that only 9.7% of the population was employed. Bahle Zondo, who is originally from the region, returned from Johannesburg to set up this sustainable farming project to address ongoing food insecurity, unemployment, and poor rural infrastructure.
The project is currently on 100 hectares of communal land, with 60 hectares under cultivation. The land is mainly dryland. With funding from the AAF, the uMsinga Farming Project has drilled a borehole for irrigation, allowing the community to grow sugar beans on 50 hectares and white maize on 10 hectares.
“The agronomic advisory services received from the AGCO Africa team has also contributed to our production capacity of 2.5 tons per hectare for sugar beans and 7 tons per hectare for white maize,” Bahle Zondo says happily.
These crops helped the family farmers and community meet their food needs and have a sustainable source of income. Some of the crops were donated to households to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on food security and livelihoods in uMsinga. The rest were sold, and the revenue was used to buy seeds, fertilizers and other inputs for the second phase of the farming project, says Zondo.
Enabling food access and prosperity for rural people
With the help of AAF, the uMsinga farming project has directly employed 20 men and 53 women, making it the biggest employer in the community. The project has also helped up to 600 people indirectly.
“At harvest, we employ even more people from the community. Our project has helped the area to have an improved livelihood and change of lifestyle, as many of our family farmers opened their first-ever bank account because of this project,” Zondo says.
Victoria Ngobese, 58, one of the project beneficiaries, said, “The community is now experiencing socio-economic transformation since the start of the farming project. Now, we have the opportunity to cultivate our own food, feed our family and send our children to school. In our first harvest, we are thrilled to get 32 bags of beans and 250 bags of maize, each of 50-kilogram size. This is a happy moment for us, and we are delighted to see how the funding support we received for our farming project is changing the narrative of agriculture and women empowerment in our community.”
The farming project has established a poultry unit of 1,000 birds. The farmers, who are mostly women, are also supported in cultivating horticultural crops, such as spinach and cabbage.
Ms Gcinile Mkihize, 49, said, “Being a single parent, I have been able to put food on the table to feed and take care of my children, thanks to the support received for the farming project.”
Zondo adds, “With the help of AAF funding, the uMsinga farming project has made farming fashionable as more young people are getting excited and having a change of mindset about farming.”
Siyabonga Mkhize, 29, one of the younger beneficiaries of the project, adds, “Since we started the project, we have received support to increase our farm productivity and understand the importance of agriculture in the future of our community, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. The project has enabled us to support our families during this tough time. As more jobs were created through the farming project, many young people like myself are now seeing agriculture as a lucrative sector.”
“Now, our project has attracted students from Johannesburg who are currently volunteering and providing expertise on the farming project. We have also partnered with the government department of education as one of the main suppliers for the school feeding program. We are also in the process of finalizing a partnership agreement with the State Department of Agriculture,” says Zondo.
“AAF has given us special support, which has helped us to develop and manage the sustainable farming project. The AAF funding support has given the uMsinga farming project serious mileage and transformed the lives of many households. Through it, we have secured partnership opportunities and recognition with governments, local media and other stakeholders,” Zondo adds.
As the project continues to scale its operations in the uMsinga community, Zondo plans to expand the farming project to 300 – 400 hectares of land for commercial farming purposes and to increase the poultry unit to 10,000 chickens. He hopes to start a feed mill factory to produce maize meal, animal feed and supply grain milling services to other neighbouring farmers to support many more small-scale farmers and create employment opportunities.
The AGCO Agriculture Foundation is committed to working towards the sustainability of the farming project by providing support systems, facilitating skills and capacity development initiatives on good agronomic practices and farm mechanization through the AGCO Zambia Future Farm.