The thought of cultivating fresh fruit and vegetables was an unheard of ambition for the Pella community, who live in the Namakwa region of the Northern Cape province of South Africa, known for its dry, dusty desert landscape. Contrary to this, a women-owned co-operative, comprising six women, one of whom is disabled, run a successful and innovative farming operation in the heart of the Karoo.
The Pella community has few opportunities to take advantage of, however, with the foresight and ingenuity of INMED, a non-profit humanitarian organisation, Pella Food Garden Cooperative submitted a successful funding proposal and is now receiving funding and assistance from Konkoonsies Solar Power, in the form of a fully equipped agro-processing unit, bottling and canning facilities and well as skills training and other enterprise support.
The exciting part is that due to a progressive symbiotic farming operation, the Pella Food Garden Cooperative is sustainable and in fact doing well enough to provide full-time local employment to help keep the venture fruitful.
The Aquaponics farming model is a productive, innovative and sustainable process that includes both fish and vegetable production that successfully overcomes the negative environmental elements that include drought, soil pollution and extreme Karoo temperatures.
“For many years, the co-op struggled to successfully farm their land, having to rely on government assistance to make ends meet. That all changed when they shifted their operation to the climate-smart Aquaponics techniques that is still considered an emerging practice in South Africa. With the help of funding and economic development this enterprise has increased its productively exponentially, as well as its capacity to employ more local labour,” explained Anna Letsoalo, Senior Economic Development Officer for Konkoonsies Solar Power, who is supporting this farming enterprise.
“The aim is to create job opportunities for the local people, access to fresh fruits and vegetables as the Pella community is situated in the deep rural of the Northern Cape with less access to the markets and to increase the economy,” added Anna.
Aquaponics is an emerging farming practice in South Africa, but may hold the key to ensuring better food security, especially in isolated rural communities such as Pella. The system produces year-round harvests providing significantly more and better produce at a faster rate.
“This project brings relief to our daily lives as we are able to put bread and fresh vegetables on the table each day,” said Ester Nell, Director of Pella Food Garden Cooperative.
She continued, “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.”