Women doing it for themselves
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for finance and economic development Zweli Mkhize has called on cooperatives to learn from a group of local women who scooped a top prize for initiating an anti-poverty project in their community.
Speaking at an event specially organized to congratulate the women yesterday, Mkhize said their actions proved that any cooperative can stand on its own with little help from the government.
The women recently walked away with a R100000 cash prize after being named winners of the Top Producer for Household Use during this year's Female Farmer of the Year awards.
The women from KwaMakhathini, in Jozini, started the Jabulani Vegetable Association 21 years ago - motivated by the need to support their families.
They were only 12 then, but have since grown to 42 members.
They obtained eight hectares of land, divided it among themselves and started growing vegetables which included cabbage, beetroot, spinach, beans and mealies.
They generate income by selling the vegetables to locals and small business owners.
Lindeni Mbatha, deputy chairman of the association, said forming the cooperative changed their lives for the better.
"We are now able to feed our families and send our children to school. Most of us are breadwinners," she said, adding that they were now looking for more land to grow more vegetables.
Mkhize said: "What you've done is amazing. You have shown that other farmers' cooperatives can also play a role in economic growth and the promotion of household food security."
Mkhize said with the rising cost of food, it was important for people to initiate projects that would help in the alleviation of poverty in the country. He promised to help the women with the skills necessary to sustain their cooperative.