Greenhousegrbed within the area

“When the customer buys our production from Shoprite Checkers it empowers us and creates hope for everyone who is involved at the Enterprise. That shows us that there will be a continued market that will be a continued market for us.”

Those were the proud words of Edwin Mabotsa the leader of Windsorton based Tshwaraganang Hydroponics Cooperative.

The farming project has been supplying English cucumber to one of South Africa’s biggest retailer, Shoprite Group for the past ten years.

Tshwaragano has proven its potential of changing lives in Windsorton in terms of job creation and sustainability through its Greenhouse Hydroponics.

The initiative was started in 1999 in the semi rural Windsorton after the realisation of the high rate of unemployment that could not be curbed within the area.

By then they started of operating as a vegetable garden.

Since its formation it has thus far reported to have created at least 14 job opportunities for locals, 80% being women.

They work five days a week.

According to Shoprite English Cucumber is not considered to being the easiest produce, which made them build a lasting relationships with the cooperative through direct interaction and communication.

Situated about 50 km outside Kimberley, unemployment is still rife within the community, leading to most of the youth to go astray.

Mining has no longer proved to being the backbone in terms of job creation and sustainability within the Windsorton community.

Most young people have started to depend on getting employment in the government sector instead of venturing into job creation options in terms through establishing their own businesses.

The cooperative has proved his uniqueness through pulling all stops and showing growth in every aspect throughout the years.

It was during a visit to the plant by Northern Expess Reporter, that Mabotsa, shared how he had to shift his focus from the technical background as he studied Physics and Maths at school, to farming.

He said him and other for members managed to make the cooperative a success through approaching various stakeholders like his local municipality, the department of Agriculture and the National Development Agency for support.

According to him, they saw a gap in the supply of Cucumbers throughout the country, which he explored with every effort he had.

“This was by no means an easy project to start to manage as it is a high investment Infrastructure setup that needs commitment and dedication to make it work,” he says.

“By then Hydroponics was also still basically new in the country, and Shoprite chain needed the market to be filled,” he elaborated on how he did background check.

He highlights how Shoprite has played a vital role in the successful running of his project in terms of creating the market for what he regards a high investment operation.

The project has grown over the period of ten years with Shoprite brand, making the cooperative the national supplier including other local supermarkets within the province, which they have been catering for over a period of seven years.

He forsees a good future, that it would have grown further within the next ten years, given the skills they acquired over the years.

“We are just hoping that within the next good years that we forsee the demand would have grown, which is something that we are ready for.”

Shoprite is taking pride in having being part of the milestone of Tshwaraganang as it demonstrates their support towards government’s job creation initiative and uplifting of communities.

“This also shows that we are not only concentrating on the big farmers but we help small scale farmers to grow their businesses.,” Madaleen Castanho from Shoprite was quoted saying in a Youtube video.

Mabotsa further adds that ASnapp took them on board through mentoring them for a period of two years since 2008.

Mabotsa can now proudly say the cooperative has the potential to have created a few jobs and will continue to do so depending on the demand in the market.

“It puts food on the tables for some families because there is a salary that comes into those homes on a monthly basis.

“They can budget for food, making a difference in their homes.”

According to Mabotsa they are hoping to increase their produce at a later stage through introduction of other vegetables to supply. That they can only be able to if they increase their infrastructure.

At this stage they have three greenhouses the size of about 3600 square metre.

They are also taking the issue of extending shares to some of their long serving workers within the enterprise into consideration.

Their productions space is still too small and limited for expansion.

He points out that the issue of income and expenditure, including the availability of land will be able to determine that move in future.

The land has since been donated to the enterprise, of which they are in the process of accumulating a title deed.

“Once you have a title deed, market infrastructure and skills it gets easier to expand the enterprise. You can’t have one and not have the other. With such a package one can also attract investors into the company,” he pointed out.

He reveals that the highlight of the project has since been having a market and the mentorship that they received when they initially started the journey.

According to Mabotsa, greenhouse farming is not an easy thing and very complex thing to manage as it comes as a sealed package.

“You cant have the other one and not have the other.”

Water has been a thing of the past for them as they work with the Water Association Scheme in Jan Kemp with regard to water schedules.