Ambitious project to empower rural women
Hundreds of formerly unemployed rural women from Tshakhuma and Tsianda received a new lease on life after the launching of a project that will turn their previously useless fruit into cash.
The ambitious project is the brainchild of Louis Trichardt-based farmers who, after working with rural women for a long time, came to understand their plight and that of the unemployed.
Avocado and Mango Tree Grafting Project Tshakhuma and Tsianda, which aims to empower women, was officially launched at the Madzivhandila Centre of Excellence last Wednesday. The project aims to impart skills to the previously unemployed women on grafting and merging trees, how to market the fruits as dried fruits, oil, juice and fruits. Started as a pilot project in February 2008, the project has so far assisted rural women in grafting more than 520 trees and the target is to graft more than 2 000 by the end of the year.
Mr Dennis Gilbert, CEO for Specialised Oils, said the idea of the project came into being after he realized that rural homesteads have lots and lots of fruits like avocados and guavas which end up rotting, with no one to buy them. “We felt we could do something about the fruit and we started buying them for our factories, which deal in oils and juice. What we bought could not meet our standards as most of the cultivars that were grown in the villages were full of water and there was virtually no oil in them,” he said.
He said after some careful research they came up with a solution, viz. grafting. “Schyffontein Farm has been grafting plants with so much success and the plants are producing good yields after more than 15 years. Why can’t we do it with the traditional cultivars by grafting the latest cultivars?” He said after careful research with municipalities, they came up with the idea of training women into grafting plants themselves and, by doing so, easing unemployment and breaking the frontiers of poverty.
He said there is great potential in their new venture and the women will be reaping the fruits, literally, in the next three years.
Mr Erasmus of Valley Farms said 75% of their farms were bought by government in order to empower the local communities. He encouraged local women to take advantage of the government’s gesture and to develop themselves. Erasmus said there was such a big demand for fruits that they have to go as far as Tzaneen to acquire some. “We see no reason for having to look for fruits from far away places when we have so many unemployed people around here. Our factory cannot reach full production without your full participation. Plant more trees and our whole community will develop,” he said.
Mr Mmbangiseni from the Department of Agriculture said the department was humbled by the partnership, which he said will help empower rural women and improve their lot. “We always have to go out looking for partners, but this time around, partners came looking for us. This comes once in a lifetime and we therefore urge all of you to grab this opportunity with both hands.” He said the department saw the initiative as a step towards self-sustenance. “As a department, we are tasked with creating jobs but this is proving to be a big challenge and the project fulfils that purpose,” he said. He thanked the farmers for the good job they were doing for the local communities.
One of the beneficiaries, Ms Brenda Muravha, said the project will benefit them a lot. She urged other women not to sit down and wait for handouts but to stand up and do something for themselves.Women involved in this project do not have to pay anything as companies sponsoring them are catering them for everything.