INMED Partnerships for Children and INMED South Africa announced that project beneficiary Pella Food Garden Cooperative was named Best Subsistence Producer by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at this year’s annual Female Entrepreneur Awards. The group also was named the Overall Winner of the provincial Female Entrepreneur Awards by the Department of Agriculture in the Northern Cape.
The Female Entrepreneur Awards ceremony is an annual event to acknowledge the contribution of women in agriculture and in poverty eradication. It also encourages and increases participation of women, young women and women with disabilities through Agricultural, Forestry and Fishery activities.
“We feel like proud parents,” said Unathi Sihlahla, Programme Director of INMED South Africa, which has spent the last year working with the all-female farming co-op to install aquaponics and adaptive agriculture measures to help the group increase its production capacity to survive a prolonged drought.
The members of Pella Food Garden Cooperative, consisting of five women (one of whom is disabled), had been struggling to farm their land for eight years but could not generate enough income to utilize all their land or buy inputs. All the members had to rely on government assistance to make ends meet. Within one year of farming with new climate-smart techniques and aquaponics, however, the co-op increased its income from an average of R50 per month to R3000 per month.
With their newfound business acumen, the group is investing its R325,000 of prize money from the Female Entrepreneur Awards in future expansion and stipends for volunteers who help on the farm. The members also look forward to sharing more of their harvests with needy families.
In accepting the award, co-op leader Ester Nell said she was thankful for the help of INMED and Old Mutual and the diligence of her fellow farmers. “We had the persistence to carry on for many years, which were not very successful,” she said. “But through INMED and Old Mutual, aquaponics has made a significant difference in our lives and brought interest in our project that we’ve never had before. We will continue to grow our business and provide jobs in our community.”
Click HERE to read more about Aquaponics as a solution for food security, income, community development and climate change on SA Good News.