African cooperative thrives as a citrus producer

A South African citrus cooperative has defied the odds to grow from supplying local markets to exporting lemons, mandarins, and oranges around the world. Their success lies in a commitment to quality, investment in training, and an embrace of new technology. The cooperative is a powerful example of how innovation can transform the agricultural sector.

Batlhako Temo Services celebrates their citrus success.

Batlhako Temo Services, an agricultural cooperative, has emerged as a key player in South Africa’s citrus industry. Made up of five dedicated members, Batlhako specializes in fresh lemons, mandarins and oranges. The cooperative supplies their high-quality fruit products to local markets, and has expanded globally to markets in Taiwan, the Middle East, the USA, Russia, the Philippines, China, and Singapore.

Batlhako’s mission combines a commitment to job creation and staff development through in-service training, with a dedication to reliably growing and delivering the freshest fruit. From its 61.5 hectares farm, in the North West province of South Africa, Batlhako has become a customer-focused supplier, while actively championing food safety.

A workforce collaboration with Solidaridad

Farming is labor intensive. For small-scale farmers lacking the resources to invest in mechanization, there is a pressing need to find appropriate staffing to ensure their continued viability and future expansion. 

At Batlhako, the team has implemented a diversified workforce strategy, which includes a blend of:

  • 15 permanent workers 
  • 30 contract workers 
  • 81 seasonal workers 
  • 18 in-service training students 

The cooperative is making strong contributions to job creation and skills development in South Africa’s agricultural sector thanks to support from the country’s Social Employment Fund (SEF) project. Solidaridad is an implementing partner and has collaborated with Batlhako to incorporate an additional nineteen contract workers into their workforce.

Visitors from Solidaridad tour the citrus groves at Batlhako Temo Services.

The benefits of this strategic partnership are many: it addresses the immediate labor needs of the farm, while aligning with Solidaridad’s broader initiatives to enhance sustainable employment, professional development, and community development in the agricultural landscape.

Batlhako Temo Services looks to the future

Established in 2010 with support from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Batlhako cultivates citrus on land secured with a 30-year lease from the Department of Agriculture and Land Reform.

The team at Batlhako Temo Services emphasizes staff accountability and empowerment supported by strong leaders in the workplace. The cooperative fosters a culture of responsible leadership and ethical decision-making, and members are encouraged to take decisions that align with the cooperative’s mission and vision. This approach encourages innovation and personal initiative, while ensuring alignment with organizational goals.

The cooperative continues to supply citrus to the markets, as well as to Magalies Juicing, a popular South African consumer brand. Accessing global markets has pushed Batlhako to embrace precision technology and recruit local agricultural-minded graduates who understand the latest and most effective agronomic approaches to efficient irrigation and plant nutrition.

This adaptability and openness to collaboration has propelled their production from just under 500 tonnes of fruit to a staggering 1500 tonnes per season.

Looking ahead, Batlhako envisions a future of diversification, cutting-edge technology, and deeper community engagement. Their story isn’t just about farming; it’s about making a positive impact. Beyond the fields, their dedication to ethical practices, community growth, and sustainable agriculture paints a picture of success that goes beyond yields — it’s about creating a better tomorrow for South Africa.

Visitors from Solidaridad meet with Batlhako Temo Services at their facility.

Solidaridad and South Africa’s Social Employment Fund

The Social Employment Fund project is a South African government initiative to address the country’s unemployment crisis. It leverages the agriculture sector to create jobs and promote economic recovery. Solidaridad has partnered with the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition to implement SEF in three provinces: Gauteng, Eastern Cape, and the North West. The project aligns with three separate but interlinked Solidaridad thematic areas – food and nutrition, sustainability and the environment, and digital inclusion.