This small, yet passionate farming enterprise, which started out as a vegetable garden, was established in 2012 to help feed the less fortunate members of the local community.
Tutu Phalatse, who resigned his job as an electrician and started the vegetable garden, heads up the Jericho Business Forum Co-op. The Jericho Business Forum Co-op consists of eight community members, who also work in the vegetable garden. “The plan from the start was to establish a vegetable garden to help eradicate poverty and create jobs in my community. Farming has always been my passion and in 2012, I decided that the time was right to return home to Jericho and follow my dreams.”
Farming, however, is not for the weak or the lazy. Tutu says that it takes hard physical labour to establish a vegetable garden that is big enough to support the community.
“It is hard work, from early to late, every single day. You spend hours in the sun. One cannot just plant seeds and leave it to maybe grow. You have to water the plants, deal with pests, fertilise…the list goes on and on. But the satisfaction you feel when you harvest something that you planted, is a feeling you simply cannot beat.”
Even though they lack proper tools and struggled with irrigation and soil infertility, the Co-op manages to support their local community by donating fresh produce like butternut, pumpkin, cabbage, tomatoes, spinach, and onions towards funerals that take place in the community.
Recently, the Shoprite Group partnered with the Jericho Business Forum Co-op to establish an effective and sustainable long-term solution to their problems. It included providing the team with extensive permaculture training and 3 000 new seedlings. Existing infrastructure was also upgraded by putting up a fence and installing gutters as well as water tanks. “We are extremely grateful that a company as large as the Shoprite Group saw what we were doing and assisted us with our venture. The only way we can take this country forward is if everyone works together for a better future.”
The Co-op now also supplies vegetables to the Tshwane Fresh Produce Market and surrounding villages. “ Our soil has the capability to produce high quality vegetables and we are able to produce, to mention a few, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, onions, spinach, cabbage, green pepper, green beans, butternut and broccoli. The plan is to become a commercial vegetable producer and I truly believe that, with hard work, we will be able to achieve that. It is not easy to do something like this and perseverance is definitely the only way to go. You can do any other business, but with agriculture, you will be building your family’s and community’s future, by creating job opportunies and making sure that everyone has enough to eat.”
Tutu says that he would like to see projects like this in every single community around the country.
“Everyone always complains about not having enough to eat or not having enough money. Starting a vegetable garden will help to create jobs and help feed the hungry. Even if you do not have a lot of space, you can still grow enough vegetables to feed your family. You will save money, feed your family and have the satisfaction of harvesting something you grew from scratch. Everyone should do it.”