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Big plans for small-scale farmers in South Africa

Through Made with Rural, some of the farmers have supply contracts with Dew Crisp, a South African fresh produce provider. © Leeko Makoene

FARMING is second nature to South African Leeko Makoene. She grew up in a village near Mahikeng in South Africa’s North-West Province, surrounded by small-scale farmers, including her grandfather.

For a few years, Makoene, 39, herself grew chili, onion and herbs for sale. But today, she dedicates her time and energy to helping other farmers access markets and enjoy the advantages of economies of scale.

After studying at the University of Cape Town, she founded the social enterprise Made with Rural in 2016 “because of the inequalities and social injustice in the agriculture industry.”

Makoene’s vision is to democratise fresh produce and see rural farmers participate meaningfully in the agri-value chain. © Leeko Makoene

“I grew up seeing small-scale farmers in my village fail to be recognized and supported by the formal sector, simply because they did not have a platform that could showcase their produce and support them with information and resources that would assist them in growing their agribusinesses and keep up with the trends of the industry,” Makoene told DW.

“The formal market is not sourcing sustainably from rural growers. It bothered me that the industry was closed to them and no-one was willing to go out of their way to develop them so they can be a part of the country’s economy.”

Makoene was named one of Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans for 2016, an initiative which honors outstanding South Africans under the age of 35 who improve people’s lives.

Makoene founded Made with Rural to help small scale farmers get access to markets and enjoy economies of scale. © Leeko Makoene

Made with Rural recently launched an app called “Khula Made with Rural” to further help achieve its goals.

It currently has over 2,500 registered farmers from different parts of the country.

“The first feature was the ‘Market Place’, which has allowed farmers to up their game and have access to a network of clients offering long-term deals.”

Made with Rural has also teamed up with Farmers United of South Africa (FUSA) and now acts as its business arm.

Leeko Makoene (4th from left) is as comfortable working on a farm with small scale farmers as she is doing advocacy work. © Leeko Makoene

“We are bothered by the high poverty statistics in the country and how the industry would rather throw away food that doesn’t meet the specifications than sell it for less to people who cannot afford food.

“We believe access to food is a basic human right. We cannot sit back and watch as capitalists make it exclusive, and only accessible to a select few. In South Africa alone, 55 percent of the population is living in poverty,” she says.

Author: Elle Wong (act)


13.02.2019 | 13:40