Co-operative invests in agricultural skills, community development
11 Feb 2021
By Johannes Seema Seabela
A group of persons with disabilities is empowering themselves with skills in an agricultural farming project to better their lives economically, to acquire much-needed skills in the primary production sector and to render services to their community.
Seven persons with disabilities in the Vhembe district in Limpopo started an agricultural co-operative project called Konanani (which means unite) in 2004.
Lydia Nemafhohoni, who is the project manager, says, “The project was initially funded by the department of agriculture and rural development as a provincial project, which paved the way for a self-sustainable growing business 16 years later.” She says the department provided them with 10 rakes, 10 hoes, 70 bags of compost and vegetable seeds.
The organisation received R289 000 in 2009 which was used to construct structures for fencing, production and electricity. The department of agriculture also gave them chickens and chicken feed.
Most of the members of the project are in the late 50s, with Nemafhohoni, who is her late 30s, being the youngest. She is a wheelchair user, a few have epilepsy and others have intellectual disabilities.
Nemafhohoni says, “The project equips persons with disabilities with skills in farming and provides employment. Economic decline is on the rise and even people with academic credentials find themselves unemployed.
“We do not practise crop farming alone in our agricultural project. We also do poultry farming and we have a shop where we sell our goods. There is a high demand for our goods in the community and we are very thankful that the community is behind us on this project.”
The project has 10 permanent employees – seven of whom have disabilities – and 11 seasonal workers. Out of the 21 employees only one is male.
The treasurer of the co-operative, Edward Nemudzivhadi, says, “Unemployment is sitting at 28.43% according to Stats SA 2020. Our project is doing its part to decrease the unemployment rate.”
Gift Nekhumbe, secretary of the project, says the group is setting a precedent for the community, even though “like any other project we are facing financial challenges. We still need funds to finish our storerooms and to construct a safe secure fence”.