Women-in-Maize celebrates first harvest season

women in maize

A multi-million Rand investment by South African Breweries (SAB), Department of Small Business Development and the Agriculture Reasearch Council (ARC), Women-in-Maize, which supports the empowerment of women-run maize farms, began its first successful harvest season through the Ekangala Primary Cooperative.

Ekangala Primary Cooperative, a 100% women-owned and run business, is one of the first participants in the Women-in-Maize programme, which saw a total of 11 cooperatives with more than 120 women farmers plant non-GMO yellow maize on a total of 1,800 hectares of land in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the North West, in late 2015.

On the programme’s significance, Minster of the Department of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, comments: “This initiative is an example of how much we can achieve when government and the private sector work together. We are confident that this partnership will help us defeat the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality on the long-term. My department is determined to empower women-owned enterprises to participate meaningfully in the economic mainstream. The task of ensuring that the Ekangala Cooperative and others across the country grow and thrive, rests on our collective shoulders.”

Women-in-Maize is one the Department of Small Business’ flagship empowerment programmes. It is aimed at addressing some of the challenges encountered by smallholding emerging farmers in rural and township communities, such as access to market, entry into big business supply chains, access to finance and participation in the formal economy. Participating Women-in-Maize farmers are assisted with skills improvement, financing, training and access to markets, most importantly being included in SAB’s supply chain. Minister Zulu commends SAB for its contribution and urged others in the private sector to emulate the company.

Run by a total of five female members, Ekangala Primary Cooperative initially specialised in poultry and vegetable farming before participating in Women-in-Maize. The cooperative has since planted, for the first time since beginning operations at least five years, on their total 45 hectares of land anticipating a minimum of four tonnes per hectare. Previous to Women-in-Maize, only fifteen hectares of the land was used yielding an average of one tonne per hectare. It is anticipated that in total the 11 cooperatives will supply SAB with approximately 9% of its total maize requirement, or 13,000 tonnes of maize. This result has been achieved despite the widespread drought experienced by farmers across the country. “We understand and recognise that while agriculture provides the livelihood of thousands in our rural communities, it can be a great challenge for the smallholder farmer to advance beyond basic subsistence farming and enter into the commercial supply chains of big businesses. We work with small-scale farmers to overcome these challenges while ensuring land is used responsibly, food supply is secure, biodiversity is protected and crops can be accessed at reasonable prices,” says Monwabisi Fandeso, SAB executive director corporate affairs and transformation.

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