Itireleng operates in two districts in Limpopo, viz. Mopani and Sekhukune.
At the 2010 AGM the Mopani Farmer’s Union elected a new leadership that has the capacity to move the association into a positive direction. Monthly meetings were consolidated and in this reporting period, eight meetings were held. There has also been a drive to encourage associations to pay their membership fees, and although there has been little improvement, the union has managed to raise R3,250 in membership fees at the end of November 2010. The current membership of Mopani Framers Union currently stands at 1,241 members (indicated by Table above) which include 387 livestock farmers.
Our work in Sekhukhune is slowly taking shape. An external evaluation commissioned by the NDA (National Development Agency) was conducted by Tswelopele Consulting in the district. The document has been circulated and it assisted us in identifying gaps and to comprehensively address local priorities and needs. Our operations also include projects from the surrounding villages of Greater Tubatse and Fetakgomo municipalities, as well as the villages of ga-Masha, ga – Nkoana, Apel, Mohlaletse, ga- Nchabeleng, ga-Maisela and Strydkraal are now part of our development activities. These consist of both small stock and crop activities and we are organising these farmers to build a strong voice of farmers in the region.
Meetings were held with the five projects that Itireleng work with in Sekhukhune, viz. Steelpoort Irrigation Scheme, Realeka Gardening Project, Mothopong Vegetable Gardens, Mahlako Gardening Project and Boschkloof Water Users Association. The purpose of the meetings was to introduce the idea of establishing farmers associations. We introduced the idea of establishing an association and an interim structure was established. Currently, the total active membership stands at 186 as indicated (table2).
YOUTH IN FARMING
During the year under review, we noticed a significant decline in youth membership both within the Serokolo and Tsoga o itirele youth groups. This decline in membership can partly be attributed to the lack of resources. However, it must be noted there is often a perception among youth that farming is not a means for job creation and future sustainability. Nonetheless, current youth groups have managed to access land and they are tilling the soil. There are great achievements, for example, an individual youth farmer, Sekhula Patrick of Duvadze, was entered into the Youth Farmer of the Year Competition; one of the local youth farmers, Adam Mabunda of Ahitirheni Vatsonga Farm, attended an exposure visit to Mali; and the Mamanyoha Lehlabile Youth Project was registered as a cooperative.
RURAL WOMEN'S DEVELOPMENT
The leadership of Letaba Farmers Association attended a LIWARD (Limpopo women in Agriculture and Rural Development) meeting at the Mahekgwe village. Many women of Letaba attended this meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the structure and encourage women to form their own structure in Letaba. The women attended a second LIWARD meeting held later in the year at Rasewana Village in Greater Letaba municipality. Three women (farmers) and one staff member also attended a Conference on Women on Land Rights held at Kempton Park during December of the year under review.
In the reporting period, the land claims committees elected a task team to assist in coordinating their restitution pursuits. The task team includes representatives from Bakgaga ba ga Maake, Banareng ba ga Letsoalo, Bakgaga ba ga Maupa and Ba-Phalaborwa ba Selwane and they form the Mopani Land Claims Committee, responsible for dealing jointly with land claims in Mopani District communities. A key responsibility of the committee is to fast track land claims, especially those claims that are long overdue.
Itireleng has been involved in various campaigns. During the period under review the Letaba Farmers Association launched a campaign on the fight against GMOs. This campaign highlights the importance of practicing organic farming. As part of the ongoing campaign, Itireleng fieldworkers and members of the associations are encouraged to continue to raise awareness of GMOs and promoting organic farming within the associations. In this reporting period, the issue of GMOs has formed part of all local agendas and a key achievement has been a gradual shift from non-organic to more organic farming practices.
Climate change is a new area for Itireleng and a key focus for 2010 was to increase the knowledge base of the subject. We began raising awareness of climate change and its impact on crops with regard to diseases, pests and increased water shortage due to drought. During the period under review staff and leadership attended various conferences, seminars and schools on the subject of climate change.
The year under review was a busy year for building leadership and the organization went to great lengths to ensure that leadership, staff and community members were afforded opportunities to strengthen their leadership skills and understanding of rural and socio-economic issues.
A series of leadership and management workshops was held for members and leadership from the two districts in which Itireleng work. In addition the organization ensured that leadership and members participated in various capacity and leadership workshops and political education seminars facilitated by partner organizations, the TCOE national office and networks such as the Peoples Dialogue.
Farmer associations were given the opportunity to improve on their skills in areas such as crop rotation & compost making, land preparation and furrow making. Farmers from the Zava gardening project and Mzilela gardening project participated in various training sessions covering insect and pest control, diseases identification and control measures, the correct application methods of kraal manure. Farmers were also given training sessions at the Green Valley Farm on compost making.
Networking with organisations inside and outside the province is an important part of our work. Through this we are able to build the capacities of staff, leadership and members, and also broadly further the rural development agenda.
Our networking includes participating in local government, provincial government and national government workshops and meetings. An example of this is the attendance by a CDW to a provincial council meeting at Madumeleng in the Greater Letaba municipality. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the challenges and dynamics of organizing youth to participate in Agriculture. The executive committee of Letaba Farmers Association was invited to attend a consultative meeting organized by Department of Economic Development. This was held at Modjadjiskloof.
Apart from the meetings held at different areas, we organised two sharing sessions. One session was held with the youth farmers during March and second one was held with the Chairpersons and secretaries of the associations during April. The purpose of the sessions was to allow for the sharing of challenges and experiences. The meetings were successful and another meeting was supposed to be held during the month of May but failed due to other planned workshops with the farmers.
Farmers in Dzumeri together with CDWs (Community Development Workers) of the area attended a Farmers day organised by Department of Agriculture and the event was held at Green Valley Farm in Mageva village. The purpose of this event was to bring together all farmers around Dzumeri to share experiences
Many of our members, particularly women, were given the opportunity to be exposed to various farming and agricultural methods through visits to other projects.
We were able to send a group of twelve farmers together with four fieldworkers and CDWs to an exposure visit to Khujwane where they learnt the importance of organic farming, permaculture designs (circle and tune design), methods of controlling pest using herbs, flowers and concrete inside furrows and water harvesting among other areas of interest.
Itireleng also conducted training on organic farming, focusing on how to make a fertility trench. Lessons were shared with farmers on how best can they practice organic farming in their farms. This training was held during June, and two fieldworkers with twenty farmers formed part of the workshop. All participants were given task of building a fertility trench on the farms, and this will be monitored by the fieldworkers.
Most of farmers rely on the local market, and only few farmers who are able to send their produce to the market.
- Itireleng project – The Oaks in Maruleng has secured a market to supply vegetables to a certain company that supplies the School feeding schemes – in the Maruleng area.
- Patrick Sekhula of Duvadze farm – in Dzumeri area is also supplying Pick n Pay with vegetables.
- Other farmers are sending some of their produce to Johannesburg fresh produce market and Pretoria market.
- Few projects in the Sekhukhune area have secured a market for some of their produce in the supermarkets in Burgersfort and Steelpoort.
- Those who are produce tomatoes send their produce to APOL in the area of Tzaneen. APOL is a manufacturing concern that produces tomato paste.
The marketing subcommittee of Mopani Farmers Union was able to identify two potential markets i.e. Limpopo Tomato Growers and Garlic South Africa.
CHALLENGES FACING ASSOCIATION MEMBERS
There are many challenges facing farming groups, and individual farmers. Theft of implements, water shortages and natural disasters without compensation are some of the issues faced by farmers. In addition many face a lack of resources such as farming implements and equipment. There is also a great turnover of youth membership due to lack of financial support for farming equipment. Union member associations are also not paying monthly contributions as expected.