Household gardens have always helped address food insecurity and malnutrition in neighbourhoods and this has been demonstrated by the intervention by Seriti Institute in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) small grants programme, which started in October 2020.
The main objective was to promote rural and peri-urban small-scale farming and agribusiness in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve near the border with Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Initially, 20 beneficiaries from Ngwenani Ya Themeli and 20 from Elim Vleifontein were selected in line with specific demographic objectives — 65% women and 69% youth, of which 65% were unemployed.
From the initial 40 beneficiaries, 10 households were selected to receive enterprise development assistance and training, which covered topics to equip farmers with the knowledge and skills to continue their farming journey.
Remember Phaswana, from Vleifontein, performed exceptionally well. Before the intervention, he had been cultivating 0.25 hectares and now he is farming 1.5 hectares.
Phaswana used to plant fewer than 300 seedlings but after becoming a participant in the programme, he expanded his production to more than 3 000 seedlings. This expansion was largely driven by the support he received in the form of training in permaculture, enterprise development, business planning and company registration from the Seriti Institute and the National Youth Development Agency.
He started to make a profit from the sale of his cabbages, saying: “I received the support of 1 500 cabbage seedlings from Seriti Institute for my backyard garden and with the enterprise development training offered, I was encouraged to venture into farming as a business and not primarily for my family’s consumption. I made over R7 000 from my cabbage sales last year and this was the first high profit ever since I started farming. I used the profit generated from the cabbage production sales to build a chicken house and bought over 200 broiler chickens from which I use the chicken manure to fertilise the garden soil as an organic method, with the current harvest of maize and white pumpkin.”
Phaswana is now expanding into pig farming.
Through the programme, farmers learnt about business plans, financial management, bookkeeping, business registration, marketing, pricing and the dynamics of business management.
They also learnt how to use the vegetable planting calendar to plant their crops, different ways to deal with pests and diseases, the management of water and the importance of diversification in the business of farming.
Puleng Tshisamphiri, from Makhado, was the first farmer from the enterprise development group to receive the training and certificate. Tshisamphiri, who is applying for the NYDA farming grant, said: “I wish all youth would realise the importance of this training because it is a lifetime opportunity for any emerging young entrepreneur who is hungry and ready for success. The future looks bright and for this, I would like to extend my gratitude to the NYDA and Seriti Institute for making this possible.”
Beneficiaries also received their business enterprise registration certificates. The benefits of these certificates is that it increases their chances of obtaining funding for their businesses and enables them to sell their produce at formal markets that require a permit and business registration.
The Seriti Institute provided farmers with maize and pumpkin seeds. Crop yields were successful. Some farmers are selling grilled mealies to local residents, while others plan to take their harvest to millers and keep some for consumption.
Tshikovhela Makwarela was delighted to harvest her maize, sun-dry her cobs and take them to the local miller where she got five 80kg bags of maize meal. She said: “I am delighted that I will not purchase maize meal for close to a year. This means that I can allocate this money to close other gaps in the household.”
The Seriti Institute project achieved its main objectives of strengthening food security by establishing at least four sustainable farming enterprises from the group of 10, while promoting permaculture farming to encourage natural farming practices.