Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher, SAUL MOLOBI, attended the Zodwa Khoza Foundation’s Agricultral Centre Open Day in Soweto

As food security is today’s buzzword, there’s more and more deliberate strategic effort to conscientise and mobilise communities to embark on sustainable agriculture in their localities – be they urban or rural. Sustainable agriculture is generally defined as the type of farming in “sustainable ways” which meet a community’s current food needs and contributes towards the provision of food security in the long run.  While Africa has over 60% of the world’s arable land, it is still a net importer of food. This is the situation that of grave concern to those who hold the continent’s future dear in their hearts. As traditional wisdom says, a thousand miles start with the first step, so addressing this continental problem has to start within our communities. 

And the Zodwa Khoza Foundation has begun to tackle this mammoth task by mobilising all stakeholders in Soweto to be aware of the challenges of food security; the opportunities to take up in reversing the frontiers of hunger and poverty that the community is faced with; and to help entrepreneurs from their community to mobilise resources – both material and non-financial such as business support services, including skills development. 

These issues were dealt with at the Zodwa Khoza Agricultural Centre Open Day which was successfully hosted by the Zodwa Khoza Foundation today in Soweto. After an uplifting prayer by Pastor George Lebusa, the speakers gave an empowering information to many attendees who included youth and adults not only from Soweto, but also from such distant localities as De Deur in the Sedibeng District, south of Johannesburg, and Kagiso in the West rand. These speakers included Sonono Khoza, the Chairperson Zodwa Khoza Foundation, who preceded the keynote speaker, Justice Lekgoro who represented the Gauteng Privincial Government’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The The mandate of the Department of includes “developing agricultural value chains, providing agricultural inputs, and monitoring production and consumption in the agriculture sector, as well as facilitating comprehensive rural development.”

Emphasising the principles of “never too old to learn” and “recognition of prior learning”, Kholofelo Motsamai, a Director of the Free State-based Tjhebelopele Institute of Agriculture, shared her inspirational journey into the world of entrepreneurship and the value of one acquiring skills as one of the success factors in any business. As many of the attendees were adults – particularly women who are at the coalface of the daily struggles against poverty and hunger – she clarified that there were short courses that everyone could register for to bolster their skills without having academic qualifications as prerequisites. 

It was humbling to hear women from the community talking about their effort in entering the agribusiness space. The strategic objective of agribusiness is to conduct a profitable business while sustainably satisfying the needs of one’s customers. The speakers indicated that one didn’t need a huge piece of land to explore subsistence farming and they outlined a number of such opportunities such as using disused tyres which could be used as pots in which seeds could be planted – this technique is even friendly to the environment as it is common knowledge that disused tyres are detrimental to the environment unless they are properly recycled. They indicated successful subsistence farming enterprises are cost-efficient internally and have to operate in conducive socioeconomic environments.

Agriculture is one of the primary contributors to the GDP and one of the biggest job creators as it is labour intensive. Justice encouraged the entrepreneurs to also look at the export markets. The agricultural sector contributed around 10 percent to South Africa’s total export earnings in 2020 at a value of $10.2 billion. 

The Centre is critical in contributing to the province reaching one of its strategic objectives of transformation, modernisation and revitalisation (TMR) which also speak to revitalisation of townships through entrepreneurship development. The World Bank has estimated that over 17% of South Africa’s total employment is through the informal economy or so called “township economy.” It noted that the country’s growth potential lies in its townships and in promoting convergence with the formal advanced parts of the economy It further suggested that the informal sector “is a lifeline to countless families who lack formal employment”. So these noble efforts by the Zodwa Khoza Foundation should be seen within this context.