KwaZulu Natal has vast areas of high quality agricultural land and is one of SA’s best-watered provinces, but maintains high levels of unemployment. This led the KwaZulu Natal Department of Agriculture and Environment (KZNDAE) to partner with TechnoServe to facilitate the utilization of the province’s available resources in order to encourage the development of competent and sustainable smallholder farmers.

Mnothophansi means “wealth in the soil” and is the name of the co-operative that falls under the Technical Assistance and Market Project, (TAMAP), a joint initiative between TechnoServe, Foodbank and KZNDAE. Consisting of 15 members, the Ndoma B Irrigation Scheme has 200 hectare of land under drag line irrigation with plans underway to expand the scheme by a further 300 hectares.

The 15 co-operative members work individually, each having his or her own land allocation, which can vary from 4 to 22 hectares. Surplus land is leased to outside farmers and is often extended to family members. Each farmer employs two to three permanent staff and each hectare of crops produced results in approximately 50 work days. The equipment, such as tractors, is shared by everyone, however, each member is responsible for his share of the upkeep of the tractors, equipment and irrigation pumps depending on their usage.

Mnothophansi produces a wide-ranging variety of crops, including green maize; butternut; chillies; cabbages; tomatoes; spinach; potatoes; beans; gem squash and sweet potatoes. Hundreds of tons of vegetables have been produced to date. All inputs are fully funded by Massmart who is also financing a pack house, which is currently under construction. This will help the farmers tremendously as there is no other handling/distribution facility available.

The Co-operative pays for the irrigation electricity bill, which is in excess of R60 000 per month in peak season. They employ an administrator to keep records (who is assisted by TechnoServe) as well as two security staff, two tractor drivers and two irrigation operators/technicians. The main challenges remain a lack of production finance, steep electricity costs and ageing equipment with no funds available for repairs or upgrades. The KZNDAE and TechnoServe partnership has provided farmers with access to business advisors, horticulture mentorship, market facilitation and ongoing business development services

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