Humble sweet potato boosts health and significant community job opportunities14 June 2017
University of Zululand realises health benefits to business model
The Enactus team from the University of Zululand (UZ), have identified that sweet potato farming can provide a lucrative source of income for the community of Zululand. They believe their business model will enable community participation in industry processes and address local unemployment and food security concerns of the region.
The UZ team from Enactus, a platform that brings tertiary students, academic advisors and business leaders together to improve socio-economic conditions in South African communities, 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 King Cetshwayo District Municipality has outlined agriculture as a driver of economic development in its Integrated Development Plan. Team Enactus UZ, identified 30 participants active in the agricultural sector for their Vukuzenzele Project with the aim of unlocking opportunities for mass employment and innovation, critical areas the Municipality aims to address.
“Sweet potatoes, sweet potato juice and jam are the main products being retailed by Vukuzenzele. We are also in discussions with the Departments of Biochemistry and Consumer Sciences to test the nutritional content of the products currently underway,” says Thabile Mdhluli, Enactus Team UZ Leader.
The expectation is that the team of experts will verify these products as a source of natural, health-promoting ingredients containing compounds such as selenium, which has skin repair and anti-inflammatory properties that are recommended for people suffering from albinism and eczema.
“Once the products have been evaluated, we will further engage with the local municipality around the potential benefits the project will have in achieving its set goals (job creation and poverty alleviation) while also increasing food choice alternatives and strengthening the rural economy. We also aim to make our products as commercially available as possible from a health and alternative food source perspective,” explains Mdhluli.
Through this collaboration, team Enactus UZ hopes to grow their relationships with stakeholders to create financing options as a means to further drive local economic development in the community. In addition, the team has provided training in processing practices, marketing, financial literacy and project management skills and processing to enable participants of Vukuzenzele to fully realise the potential of the project.
Says Group Executive of Corporate Affairs at Barloworld, Sibani Mngomezulu: “SMME’s are major drivers of economic growth in South Africa and globally. 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. We are excited to be able to play a supportive and encouraging role for teams from Enactus in the BYISA and beyond.”