Ikhwezi Farms: A growing success

Ikhwezi Farms were started in the Boschkop area near Cullinan in 2006 by five local women, armed with no more than indigenous knowledge and passion. Though a lack of financial support inhibited the project for two years, in 2008, the Department of Agriculture donated three vegetable tunnels to the project and things began to take off. Woolworths was engaged as a market for Ikhwezi’s vegetables and Qutom Farm was assigned as a mentor.

In 2009, the former Metsweding district municipality became involved in the project and donated fencing. The following year, Petra’s Cullinan mine came on board when the municipality approached the Company. Cullinan diamond mine  has injected R1 million to the project for a sustainable borehole  and the erection of seven greenhouse vegetable tunnels in addition to planned irrigation for all the tunnels. The Company’s plan is to also contribute towards a proper vehicle (truck) for the project. The Department of Trade and Industry, through their co-operative incentives scheme, also supported the project with the erection of five more tunnels.

While Ikhwezi produces vegetables for the formal market, including Woolworths, through Qutom, and the Farm Inn Hotel near Silverlakes, surpluses are also sold to local communities. The project area consists of 8.5ha of land but, as yet, only 2ha are in use. Thus there is potential for considerable growth.

Support in the form of extensive technical expertise is provided on an ongoing basis by the Department of Agriculture, the University of South Africa and Qutom. In addition, the government, through the Extended Public Works Programme, engages some 100 people to work at Ikhwezi. The project employs a further 50 seasonal workers who are also the recipients of seedlings for their own personal vegetable gardens.

Such is the success of the Ikhwezi Farms project, that it has been earmarked as a working model for future Petra agricultural community project initiatives. In recognition of its achievements, the project has just won a provincial award for the number one formal market supplier by emerging black farmers.

Ezekiel Rambwabeli, Petra Diamonds’ Community Development Coordinator: North region, believes the Ikhwezi Farms project is already changing lives in a very significant way, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. “Ikhwezi’s products are supplying the formal market and any surplus is sold to the informal market, and with less than 25% of the property currently being used, there is significant growth potential. This is a sustainable venture, and we are all very excited. Watch this space!”