Schoeman Boerdery helps 100 rural South African communities with cultivation training

Unlike in the South African mining sector, where 1% of net profits are legally required to be spent on social and labor market programmes, there is no such legal obligation for agricultural and horticultural enterprises. Nevertheless, Schoeman Boerdery, a large citrus grower in the Senwes area of ​​Limpopo, has felt compelled to co-finance an economic development programme. It is the so-called Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) program for the surrounding communities in Sekhukhuneland (Limpopo) and Mpumalanga.

Gogo Mashilo in the vegetable garden in Motshephiri, Sekhukhuneland, which she created after learning the deep trench method in the Sociotech/Umsizi BBL program (photos provided by Umsizi)

The broad-based livelihoods program was created and implemented by SocioTech and Umsizi Sustainable Social Solutions, who together have more than 30 years of experience building programs to tackle chronic food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty.

Marna de Lange, CEO of SocioTech: “You can’t think small enough – DKK 10 a day can double a person’s disposable income.” According to her, Covid has brought more attention to the issue of food insecurity and the pandemic has boosted the BBL programme.

“We have to take advantage of the opportunities, and that starts with vegetables”
“In the five years we’ve worked with Schoeman Boerdery, their program has spread like wildfire,” explains Jeanine Kirkman, Program Manager at Umsizi.

“Especially as the program expanded to neighboring villages and even further afield. The BBL program helps ordinary people develop their livelihoods with what they already have, at their own pace, without relying on external inputs, thus scaling up , as they want. It will be a new way of living.”

Training in Strydkraal, Sekhkhuneland (Limpopo Province)

New villages are constantly being added to the program in and around Sekhukhuneland. The program, which SocioTech and Umsizi implement on behalf of Schoeman Boerdery, is now present in 100 communities.

“We have responded to the call for further implementation of the program within our current resources, but there is so much potential to make this even wider,” said Jeanine. “We will try to attract other partners to take it to the next level. It is a proven solution with opportunities for even more scalability.”

She notices that SocioTech and Umsizi’s strong stakeholder network is one of the reasons for their success. The project is designed to reach people at the bottom of society and has a low barrier to entry.

“BBL is different: it’s about reaching as many people as possible. We don’t select participants in advance, we open it up to everyone. Our goal is not to have a goal for the number of gardens, our goal is to help the whole society in getting out of the loop. poverty by creating more opportunities to access the economy.”

The BBL program has been implemented as a local economic development program for mining companies to meet their social and labor obligations. It operates in eight provinces in South Africa and is active in a thousand communities. More than 25,000 participants have now been trained in food growing and basic commercial skills.

Home-grown strawberries from a participant in the BBL program

My food
The first step in implementing a BBL program is a mass meeting. “We explain that we are not there to give alms, but we want to train them to grow food to feed their families and generate income,” says Jeanine.

“We need to unlock the potential of the informal economy, and it can start at someone’s home, with vegetables. We teach the participants the method of deep digging, to be able to use the space they have. You don’t need money to buy a trench of 1 by 3 meters as all inputs are freely available. The deep burial method of soil regeneration has proven to be hugely successful regardless of region, soil quality or rainfall.”

Participants in the program, which will run for 8 to 10 months, will not be given seeds or other inputs, but will be encouraged to collect seeds from the vegetables they already eat. In the program’s fruit tree campaign, they can learn how to add fruit to their growing methods.

According to Marna, a relationship of trust quickly develops because the advisers regularly return to help. A BBL program usually achieves excellent results in about three years.

Grow tunnel and drip irrigation
Because of the low barrier to entry, it is easy for participants to teach others about the deep trench method. Participants who transfer knowledge to three other families who could harvest vegetables themselves are eligible for a cultivation tunnel if the budget allows.

“These grow tunnels are excellent advertisements for the program. The tunnels are often the talk of the town. They get a demonstration of the installation and maintenance of the tunnel and the irrigation system. The grower can then generate enough income in one season for another tunnel,” says Marna.

This participant earned a tunnel by spreading his expertise in vegetable growing in his community.

MyBusiness & MyFuture
Marna notes that business-minded people quickly see the potential of vegetable sales in the local community. An additional advantage is that the money stays in the community.

A program that teaches the basics of running a business, such as budgeting, administration, pricing and cost accounting, follows. This can be applied to the field chosen by the participant.

“Often there is such a sense of hopelessness in local communities,” says Marna. “The MyFuture part of the BBL program helps people imagine a different future by setting goals, and the MyFood program is the springboard.”

Jeanine: “Schoeman Boerdery sees the program as part of their vision to help their people, their community and their country.”

For more information:
Jeanine Kirkman/Gus Doyle
Umsizi sustainable social solutions
Phone: +27 11 791 2157

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