Celebrating World Food Day with VKB

The 16th of October marked World Food Day, which commemorates the founding of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). This year’s theme focused on addressing migration through investing in food security and rural development.

South Africa has climbed three points on the Dupont Food Security Index, placing it first in Africa and 44th globally, despite having weathered the worst drought in decades. As part of its celebrations, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and his delegation visited Lekhotla Makoele’s farm.

Makoele started farming in 1989. In 1995, he received a loan from the Land Bank and is proud to have paid it back before the 25-year term.

Makoele’s 386 hectare farm is part of VKB’s Developing Sustainable Small Commercial Farmers project, funded by the Jobs Fund. He joined VKB eight years ago when he was planting mealie, wheat, soya beans and dry beans. Now, with the help of VKB, he has set his sights on asparagus.

The Developing Sustainable Small Commercial Farmers project has developed two asparagus farms in Qwa-Qwa and Rosendal (Mautse), totalling 130 hectares. Two primary agricultural cooperatives will produce the asparagus collectively.

"I have never planted asparagus in my life but I have seen white people work with it and didn’t know what was happening. They won’t do anything that doesn’t have profit," says Makoele.

Farmers are provided with a full package of support that includes on-farm mentorship, finance and mechanisation. Asparagus is a high-value, labour-intensive crop with the potential to double a farmer’s income. This initiative will create an estimated 200 seasonal jobs for six months of the year.

Because the asparagus seed is not locally available, it is imported. The seedlings are made at Top Crop Nursery and transplanted by hand in fields. A total of 2 million seedlings will be used on the two asparagus farms.

Makoele and the three farmers in his cooperative will plant 60 hectares in total. The first batch was planted in April.

"In farming, you must have love for it. Don’t go in it for the money; you must work it to make money," advises Makoele.