Women putting grapes on the table
A cooperative of Limpopo women is proof that grape farming is not only for rich white farmers.
The Peace Table Grapes cooperative in Moganyaka village near Marble Hall is farming table grapes which they export to markets in Europe. They also sell the grapes to the fresh produce market in Tshwane and retail stores.
Table grapes are not used for wine making but are instead consumed as fruit.
The women who operate on tribal trust land are the only black women grape farming cooperative in the country. Last year their harvest yielded 27,700 boxes of table grapes.
They recently won the export category of the Female Farmer of the Year Awards in Limpopo which also qualified them for the national prize. This went to Western Cape wine producer Berene Damons. But the women of Moganyaka say this is only the beginning of good things to come.
Theirs is a unique project in that most cooperatives focus on vegetable production.
"We realised that the soil here is good for this," said one of the directors Rebecca Lentsoane, saying they took soil samples for testing before they undertook farming.
"We decided to do grapes even though it is difficult. It is a project that has a long lifespan. It's unlike when you cultivate cabbage today and next week it changes. This product will last for many generations because the trees will survive long if we take care of them."
Although SA has been one of the world's largest producers of table grapes for the past century, black women have only been involved in the multimillion-rand industry as labourers.
The Peace Table Grapes cooperative employs 42 full-time staff, most of them women. During the last picking season they had a staff complement of 83 including seasonal workers.
Moganyaka, which is located in the Ephraim Mogale
municipality, is one of the poorest areas in the province with high unemployment.
The cooperative which farms 10 hectares was started in 2015. The project also employs graduates on a two-year placement and offers experiential training for students from the nearby Tompi Seleka College of Agriculture and the University of Mpumalanga.
Another director, Moila Seoka, a former farm labourer, said while many cooperatives fail, Peace Table Grapes is now powering to its sixth year.
"We already know what we want and have a passion for what we want to do . For the other co-operatives to fail is because of conflicts and the fight over the money . We won R125,000 but we don't just share and use it for personal reasons. We check what our farm needs and [then] we can be able to share the remaining amount."
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