Former Farm Workers Receive Training to Run Their Own Farms12 June 2017
Vaal University of Technology tackles unemployment with skills development
Budding entrepreneurs from The Vaal University of Technology (VUT) have witnessed how the power of skills training in different forms of farming, business and marketing can contribute to social development, job creation and sustainability for communities, as it did for the Bantu Bonke Community in the Midvaal.
As a result, the Enactus VUT team which has providing the skills training, has been recognised as one of the eight finalists for the Barloworld Social Innovation Youth Awards (BSIYA) competing at the judging ceremony on Friday, 30 June.
The community farming project covering four hectares of land was initiated in 2006 following the return of land to the community after the 1994 democratic elections. Fifteen direct beneficiaries including 12 women and three men were former employees of the farm. The idea was to enhance their agricultural expertise by teaching them new forms of farming such as hydroponics (vegetable farming). This entailed appointing a mentor who would offer advanced technical hydroponics training and mentoring at least two members on how to manage the business to ensure the sustainability of the project as well as how to use water and energy sustainably.
Currently, there are 15 greenhouse tunnels on the farm where tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and brinjals are being grown. The Enactus VUT team has further assisted the beneficiaries with training in business and marketing management.
Says Kelebogile Tshenolo Mahlatsi, Enactus VUT Team Leader, “The project has come a long way since 2015, when we identified some areas that were hindering the progress made by the farm, for example, the branding of their produce. Once the farmers packaged their product in branded containers, their ability to distribute to retailers became easier.”
Mahlatsi says she is excited about the progress made and there are plans to roll out other farming opportunities which will realise a total of 197 jobs created in the three-phased approach:
- Phase one: Hydroponics vegetable farming which aims to create 39 job opportunities;
- Phase two: Poultry Farming which will create 40 new jobs opportunities; and
- Phase three: will be commercial in-land fish farming which will create 128 jobs.
“Over the next three phases, we will be able to assess the project, not only by the number of jobs being created but also by the increase in the number of retailers purchasing from the farm. The growth of their farming business will also enable them to incorporate appropriate technologies that will assist them with the production and processing of their produce,” she explains.
The Enactus VUT team aligned this project with Government’s National Development Plan (NDP) as well as the United Nations Global Sustainability Goals to:
- Develop and sustain entrepreneurship amongst women and youth;
- Address local skills development and capacity building needs; and
- Address food security and alleviate poverty.
“We believe in initiatives like these that have the potential to contribute towards solving the challenges facing many of our communities. Particularly exciting is that the team has also thought of how to make this project sustainable over the long-term,” says Group executive of Corporate Affairs at Barloworld, Sibani Mngomezulu.
“Barloworld seeks to be a catalyst for change and to contribute to the empowerment and transformation initiatives that will ensure the sustainability of our broader society. In supporting Enactus, we are able to play an important role in promoting entrepreneurship, encouraging young people to improve lives and strengthen communities, and developing responsible leadership,” he concludes.