7 July 2017

Tongaat Hulett in partnership with the Mngampondo community and Siyazisiza Trust, a northern KZN non-profit rural development organisation, are working to improve food security and grow the rural economy.  The Mngampondo food security project, which will establish 6.8 hectares of food crops, has already planted 2 hectares of maize, 0.5 hectares of beans and 0.7 hectares of butternut since commencement in June 2016. 
Currently, the food security project has 67 members who range between the ages of 27 years and 84 years. They are in the process of registering a primary co-operative, Vukuzame with the Department of Trade and Industry. The project members visited the uThungulu and Durban Fresh Produce Markets to establish business linkages. This is in line with the Agri-Park model which seeks to encourage the development of all farmers and maximise farmer access to markets, with a particular focus on rural communities. The model also seeks to maximise the use of existing infrastructure such as roads, electricity and irrigation infrastructure to support the economic activities currently being undertaken within Mngampondo. 
The food security project is part of the broader Tongaat Hulett local economic development initiative under the uMlalazi local municipality, with this intervention under the Ndlangubo traditional leadership council. This project forms part of the broader irrigation scheme within Mngampondo. An amount of R189 507 was allocated towards the implementation of this food security project.
The members attended a cooperatives training workshop organised by Canegrowers in August 2016 and have received training in a wide range of themes, which include health and nutrition, agri planning, soil health, pest and weed control, record keeping and basic financial management.
The approach looks to strengthen the capacity of local communities to analyse their livelihood systems, identify their main constraints and test possible solutions. By merging their own indigenous knowledge with scientific information, farmers can eventually identify and adopt the practices and technologies most suitable to their livelihood system and needs, to become more productive, profitable and responsive to changing conditions.
Agriculture is the most dominant sector in the Mngampondo area where over 80% of households have established homestead gardens which supply most of the vegetables they consume at home. This area has an estimated population of 1 371 people and 243 households. 
A baseline survey by Siyazisiza Trust revealed that most households in the area are female-headed, house six members and have an average monthly income of R1486,40 from salaries/wages and R1703.50 from social grants.
Within the scope of this project, the Siyazisiza Trust assists the project members to access fresh vegetables for their households, ensures that the 6.8 hectares is under food crop production and promotes access to trading opportunities with local businesses, government and community members.
The main challenges faced by project members are uncontrolled livestock grazing due to the lack of proper fencing as well as cumbersome administrative processes. Grant funding of R20 000 has been secured by the Trust for a fencing project.