Energy & Environment

Saturday, 23 July 2011 14:30

Sunflowers a pot of gold for the rural Rainbow nation

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Rural economic development depends on community-led solutions says the National Development Agency. By contributing R124 billion to South Africa’s GDP last year alone, agriculture offers rural South Africans the key to economic development.
By harnessing the power of secondary industry and in particular processing sunflower seeds for oil, one co-operative is driving development from a primary provider to ensure a bright future for its community.

Registered in 2005, Mphatlalatsane Cooking Oil Co-operative in Mpumalanga started as a local economic development initiative aimed at improving the living standards of its members and the community at large. As 68% of Mpumalanga is zoned for agriculture, development of this industry is a major focus for local government, making a good case for a concept called ‘agro-processing’, the principles of which the co-operative had already begun putting into practice.

These agro-processing principles of reducing waste, enhancing food security for the community, improving livelihoods and empowering women are the reason the co-op came into being, driven by the need for a community-focussed solution in a rural environment.

Over 60% of sub-Saharan Africa’s labour force is involved in small scale food processing, indicating that it holds the much-needed potential to alleviate poverty and offer economic development.

Believing the co-op to be working positively towards uplifting its community, the National Development Agency has allocated R 1,481,230 towards its growth. “The project was initiated at community level and this gave us the confidence that it has the right ingredients for success. At the NDA, we seek to improve the economic capacity of local communities while encouraging sustainable development.

We hope that this project will be a beacon of hope to other communities facing the economic downturn. We were also impressed by community participation and commitment from its members who are encouraged to make their own decisions in terms of their development needs”, said Nimrod Mbele, NDA Provincial Manager for Mpumalanga.

The project currently employs 10 people and seeks to create 50 jobs that will benefit more than 500 in the community due to employees being sole breadwinners for their families. Members have been trained in the making of cooking oil by Rutec (Pty) Ltd. Project members have already been trained in financial management, organisational development and governance, monitoring and evaluation, business and strategic planning, and production data management though NDA development grants; skills that will ensure the steady and smooth running of the business, enabling it to grow and become more effective.

Further grants secured the purchase of sunflower seeds and the construction of a silo complex which is used for storing the sunflower seeds. Funding has also enabled the co-op to purchase a vehicle to transport the cooking oil to the wholesalers.

In his budget speech this May, Executive Mayor of the Gert Sibande District Municipality, the area in which the co-op is based, committed his government to local economic development as one of the 5 key strategic priorities for the Municipality. Mphatlalatsane Cooking Oil Co-Operative is one example of an initiative that offers a way forward for economic development not only in this district, but across South Africa.

For more information, please contact Makgodu Tsehloane, Marketing and Communications Manager at the NDA on 011 018 5500 / 083 444 4114.

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