A 624-hectare farm in Darling on the West Coast has been hailed as a big boost for emerging farmers from Khayelitsha, Langa and Gugulethu, helping to create jobs and put some money into township residents’ pockets.
There are seven people working on the land, with support from the Department of Agriculture, but they are mostly elderly, and there are now 15 job opportunities for young people.
All but one of the workers were part of the women-run Masakhane Africa Agro-Processing Co-operative in Khayelitsha, keeping poultry and growing vegetables in their gardens, before trying to make an unsuccessful go of it on a piece of land in Mamre.
While their plans to set up a farming operation there failed, the department selected them to take part in a two-month agriculture training course.
Now they are farming wheat, vegetables and fruit as well as livestock in Darling.
Dorothy Xonxa, the deputy chairwoman of the farm project said its chairman, Abdul Tajoordien, was a workaholic leader who guided them well.
The women started their co-op in 2014 to help feed their families in the face of the high unemployment rate in their communities.
“It has not been an easy journey to do this. We started illegally on an old farm in Mamre,” said Ms Xonxa, during an interview at her Khayelitsha home.
“But we were persistent, asking the government to help, which they did by training us first.”
They spent two months on a training programme at the Agriculture and Research Council in Pretoria.
“After we graduated, the government bought us the farm. We are grateful to the government.”
Ms Xonxa said because they were elderly and could not stay far from their homes, they were looking for young people with some farming experience to help on the farm.
Despite being one of the oldest members in the group, the 69-year-old said she was still able to do everything by herself and loved every minute of it. She urged young people to seize the opportunity and learn about agriculture.
“They need to take the advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
“We need them to work on farming. There is joy and packages there,” she said.
Nomzi Vaphi, from Langa, still does not believe she is part of the group. After years of struggle, she marvels at the fact that she is now a farmer.
“It has been a struggle to have a farm. I cannot tell you the joy inside me.
“When I think of the hard times in Mamre, I feel like crying. We lost cattle, sheep and a lots of harvest. We were trying hard until this year when God said it is our time.
“It is now our time to show the world that we can do this,” she said.
The farm has 300 sheep and 100 cattle, and Ms Vaphi said they hoped to triple these numbers soon.
“We are also learning to grow new things like grapes. Before we came here we never had grapes. We are now among other farmers who will sell grapes,” she said.
To apply for one of the 15 job opportunities on the farm, call Lungile Nobanza at 079 527 1755.