Any kind of farming is a leap of faith. Whether you’re a young person setting out, determined to grow things, or a mid-life changer, intent on a less stressful lifestyle, or someone who grew up on a farm who wants simply to continue working in this age-old profession, you know it will be hard and that there will be failures. But that’s true of the best things. The secret is that it is possible to succeed.
Our organisation, TWH Consumer Cooperative, spent a day with a youth owned cooperative in Tarlton township outside Krugersdorp. Like most South African townships, Tarlton is plagued by high unemployment and poverty levels.
We spoke to 31 year old Mr Rapula Mbele, chairperson of the Thusa Farming and Multipurpose Cooperative, on the nature of their business and the future of their cooperative. Thusa Farming is presently mainly operating as an agricultural cooperative. In general, agricultural cooperatives can be classified into three broad categories according to their main activity, namely marketing cooperatives (which may bargain for better prices, handle, process or manufacture, and sell farm products), farm supply cooperatives (which may purchase in volume, manufacture, process or formulate, and distribute farm supplies and inputs such as seed, fertilizer, feed, chemicals, petroleum products, farm equipment, hardware, and building supplies), and service cooperatives (which provide services such as trucking, storage, ginning, grinding, drying, artificial insemination, irrigation, credit, utilities, and insurance).
Thusa Farming started in 2010 with a group of five youth. They run a five-tunnel farming operation planting mainly tomatoes, but once in a while branch out to other cash crops like sweet potatoes. Through hardwork and sheer determination they have managed to secure regular buyers such as the SPAR in Krugersdorp and the Brandvlei supermarket just across the road.
Though their cooperative has experienced a number of challenges, one being secure electricity, Mr Mbele remains hopeful and resolute that they can achieve great success, expand and employ more youth. He believes that agriculture as a career is often overlooked by young people, which is unfortunate since there are a multitude of opportunities in this sector. His final message (see clip) is that the youth must take up farming and that we need to cultivate a love and appreciation for farming with small children.
Mr Mbele has become a friend of our cooperative, and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with them and stocking our Cooperative Grocery Store with Thusa Farming’s produce.
If you would like to join our cooperative, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.