iLembe District Municipality established the open farms concept which involves supporting community-based co-operatives to establish viable agricultural gardens which produce vegetables such as cabbage, butternut, potatoes, onions, etc. for both community needs and for sale in the market. The aim is to assist existing small scale farmers to shift away from farming for just subsistence needs onto commercial ventures.
Six farms were identified across the four local municipal areas of the iLembe District; Mathonsi, Bulwer, Siyanqoba, Kwahlongwa, Mwandle, Khelelani.
iLembe District through its Economic Development Agency; Enterprise iLembe assisted farmers with the land preparation of the sites; the provision of implements and seedlings and mentorship and support services. Assistance is also given with co-operative registration and support.
The Mayor of iLembe District Municipality, Cllr S.W. Mdabe joined labourers at the Maphumulo Khelelani Open Farms site in harvesting some of the fruit of hard labour. A total of about 890kg of butternut was harvested at Khelelani alone and about 3tons across the all the open farms.
Mayor Mdabe had the opportunity to interact with the co-operatives on site and promised to address as a matter of urgency some of their concerns raised by the community members. These included the provision of suitable work-wear and more assistance with farming implements and equipment..
Mayor Mdabe commented that the long term aim is that these co-operatives become sustainable small businesses in their respective communities. “Agriculture is a key sector in the district and the needs of the small emerging farmers need to be taken into consideration when looking at the bigger picture of food security and poverty alleviation”.