Homegrown Vegetables Available On Local Supermarket Shelves
Shoppers at some of the major chain store supermarkets in Ballito may be surprised to learn that some of the fresh produce in their trolleys is being grown right here in iLembe, less than 100 kilometres from Ballito.
World class tomatoes, cucumbers, red, yellow and green peppers as well petty pans are in fact being grown in hydroponic tunnels in Maphumulo, Ndwedwe, KwaDukuza and Mandeni in a success story that promises a happy ending for all involved. The project is one of many currently unfolding thanks to the efforts of Enterprise iLembe, the Economic Development Agency of iLembe District Municipality.
Still in its infancy, the project has seen four state of the art greenhouses being built – one in each of the four municipalities in iLembe. The second phase, which is currently under construction, will see an additional four tunnels by June this year.
“Gone are the days where government came in, built whatever was needed and then left. By the time Enterprise iLembe leaves this project, all of those involved would be trained and would have the technical expertise and business skills to manage it themselves,” says a tremendously proud Mayor Welcome Mdabe.
“The success of the project lies in finding a niche-marketed product that is homegrown, producing it and then supplying it to a ready market,” he adds. To date the project has created 100 direct jobs and more will be on the way as the second tunnels are complete and the training begins.
The tunnels are highly technical, with irrigation systems and temperature control mechanisms enabling those that operate and own them the chance to literally produce what ever the market needs.
A feasibility study into whether or not an agri -processing facility should be placed near the tunnels or at one central point is underway.
Linked to this successful project is another initiative also under the belt of Enterprise iLembe, dubbed the Open Farms project, this initiative is aimed at encouraging local farmers plant and grow for the local market, moving from subsistence farming into the commercial space.
“You should have seen the look on the faces of the farmers in Maphumulo when – for the first time – they were able to sell a bag of potatoes for between R30 andR50,” said Mayor Mdabe.
He said the project works hand-in-hand with the provincial department of agriculture who provides mechanics and other technical support to farmers.
To date there are 284 people involved in the project and the number is growing as the project takes off. He said the produce grown on these farms in the district had been sent to the Fresh Produce Market in Durban, to the Spar food chain and to local spaza shops.
“Even the ordinary local seller is benefiting from this project,” he said.