As the country commemorates Women’s Month under the theme “Women’s socio-economic rights and empowerment: Building better for the women’s improved resilience,” the National Development Agency (NDA) celebrates women of Maamahlale Agric Primary Cooperative Limited in rural Balloon Village, who are contributing to economic development in their area.
This is in line with the NDA’s mandate of contributing towards the eradication of poverty in communities through working with civil society organisations (CSOs).
Maamahlale Agric Primary Cooperative Limited was established in 2008 but only registered in 2019. Women in agricultural cooperatives have proven themselves to be trailblazers, innovators and advocates for change. Their tireless efforts have not only improved the quality of life for their families and communities, but also paved a way for more inclusive and equitable agricultural practices.
The NDA grant funded Maamahlale Agric Primary Cooperative Limited with an amount of R961 338,40 which was used to buy a tractor, debushing of the extended hectares, building a pack house, a cold room facility and building a dam for water harvesting. These improvements will increase productivity and will make it easy for the workers to water the plants since they now have a reservoir.
The cooperative produces a variety of vegetables such as green beans, cabbage, cocktail tomatoes, paprika, butternut, and peppers. They have a broad reach in the market as their produce is supplied to Tshwane Green Market in Pretoria, Springs market, Dapper in Johannesburg, Sub Tropico in Cape Town. Mopani Rural Hub, which is a subsidiary to Spar is their biggest client as it exports the cooperatives’ produce to other countries within the African continent.
Maamahlale Agric Primary Cooperative is the brainchild of Ms L Sekgobela who came up with an initiative to form an agricultural cooperative in response to unemployment in Mopani District. In 2018, the unemployment rate in Mopani District Municipality was 16.32% and this pushed community members to look for alternative ways of making a living. Most of the families within the district are women-led and this has resulted in a devastating impact on social upbringing of the society and caused women like Ms Sekgobela to source other ways of combating those challenges.
“I am humbled and grateful for the support we have received from the NDA. The funding we have received allows us to take significant strides in empowering women in our community by providing them with resources, opportunities, and mentorship. Together with the NDA, we envision a future where every woman can rise to their full potential, creating a more inclusive and equitable society for all.” Ms L Sekgobela, Maamahlale Agric Primary Cooperative Limited.
The fresh produce of Maamahlale Agric Primary Cooperative Limited has made a tremendous success for the community and provinces across South Africa. The cooperative created 24 permanent jobs and currently hires 13 casual workers who work during planting and harvesting times. Women in Balloon Village are empowered by the Maamahlale Agric Primary Cooperative Limited, hence they started to join the cooperative and others are running small businesses around the village.
“I believe that by addressing economic inequalities and empowering women with access to resources and economic opportunities, we foster an environment where women can thrive and become agents of positive change in our societies. By assisting cooperatives such as Maamahlale Agric Primary Cooperative Limited, we embrace our Turnaround Strategy and our motto, which is to unlock potential within our communities and to combat poverty and its causes.” Ms L Hlapolosa, Acting CEO of the NDA.
The NDA remains committed to collaborating with women and women led CSOs. Women across the African continent remain the face of poverty. If South Africa and the continent is to respond to the plight of poverty, it will need to put women in the centre of the developmental agenda. The NDA calls on the CSO sector, business, and government to continue to support women led CSOs and cooperatives and address the issue of access to economic opportunities for women.