By Staff Reporter

Mgwali, Eastern Cape: For Thobeka Mapukata and the team at Kusile Mzansi Community Development (KMCD) starting a food garden was initially to keep hunger at bay and use the time on their hands fruitfully. What started as a means to an end in a small village has turned into an enterprising business, supplying the local Spar and Pick n Pay in Sutterheim with A-grade tomatoes, fit for export markets.

The Industrial Development Corporation has partnered with the Old Mutual Foundation and Dohne Agricultural Development Institute to provide the KMCD with the equipment and technical skills required to grow their hydroponics vegetable project to greater heights. Through funding received, they will be acquiring additional seedling tunnels and an irrigation system which will enable them to increase their production capacity. This boost in production will also create jobs for 10 youth, seven of whom are young ladies, within the community of Mgwali.

“Through securing sponsorship from the IDC and our other partners, we managed to increase our production and acquired a contract to supply three local stores with our tomatoes. It fills us with great pride that we have managed to move from humble beginnings to supplying chain stores with our produce. We are certain that we will move to even greater heights with all the support we are getting from all our sponsors,’ says Thobeka Mapukata, Project Manager at KMCD.

The partnership between the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Kusile Mzansi Community Development, comes a long way. The two organisations first partnered in 2017 when the IDC funded the purchase of sewing machines and fabric for KMCD’s sewing project. When COVID-19 struck in 2020, the IDC procured masks for their entire workforce from KMCD.

“Our partnership with Kusile Mzansi is aligned to the IDC’s corporate social investment mandate of focusing on community projects which support women and youth entrepreneurial development. Key to this is also creating jobs that sustain members of our communities, especially those in poor and rural communities,’ says Tshepo Ramodibe, the IDC’s Head of Corporate Affairs.

Mapukata and her team have great plans for KMCD, they want to ensure that the women and youth employed in this project also grow through being a part of this farming project. ‘We are supporting our beneficiaries to form their own cooperatives and we are training them on the business skills and governance they require in order for them to use the farming skills they are acquiring to start their own viable projects in the future,” adds Mapukata.

KMCD is part of the UN Women Business Development Training programme.