Linking women farmers to high-value markets in South Africa

Nomxolisi Mathe is one of 105 female farmers taking part in Solidaridad’s Farmer2Market project in South Africa. As a horticulture farmer in Putfontein, a village east of Johannesburg, Ms. Mathe employs 14 people and farms a variety of herbs and vegetables.

Ms. Nomxolisi Mathe, a horticulture farmer whose farm in Putfontein, South Africa grows a variety of herbs and vegetablesHorticulture farmer, Ms. Nomxolisi Mathe, on her farm in Putfontein, South Africa

The Farmer2Market project aims to prepare South African small-scale farmers like Ms. Mathe to access high-value markets. This includes training on good agricultural practices and food safety standards. 

The project also helps to build the necessary skills and resources for farmers to maintain relationships with the private sector. It works with small-scale farmers across the six provinces of Gauteng: North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. It is funded by the European Union, in partnership with the South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs, through its SWITCH Africa Green Facility – implemented by Solidaridad, in partnership with LIMA Development Foundation and ICCO International.

Linking farmers to high-value markets

The Yukon Group, an international aggregator that specializes in baby vegetables and microgreens, is an important processor in the Gauteng province. The group was interested to work with entrepreneurial smallholder farmers participating in the Farmer2Market programme who’d attended local good agricultural practice training. 

When Yukon visited five of the best farms in the province, they selected Ms. Mathe as one of the final three farmers they wanted to work with to supply their export markets. 

“They love my produce because it is grown organically,” said Ms. Mathe, who currently sells most of her produce to a market in Midrand.

Our produce is expensive because it is organic, but informal traders don’t know what ‘organic’ is, and they tend to demand their own prices. That’s why it’s so good to work with processors such as Yukon who work in formal, high-value markets.

– Nomxolisi Mathe, horticulture farmer

Sugar snap pea trials on Ms Mathe's farm in Putfontein, South AfricaSugar snap pea trial

Gender inclusivity remains imperative

Supporting women farmers is crucial for the Farmer2Market project. Around 70% of smallholder farmers are women, yet only about 17% of landholders in sub-Saharan Africa are female. Women also receive less than 10% of available credit and 7% of credit extension services.

We understand the positive impact women can have in the sector if they are supported to overcome key challenges like land ownership or tenure, and gaining support in sustainable farming methods.

– Mr Johnson Bhungu, Farmer2Market programme manager. 

Female farmers accounted for around one third of the country's 847,000 new farm jobs in the first quarter of 2018, according to Statistics South Africa. Women’s incomes also have a bigger impact on food security with studies showing that every Rand in income earned by women has the same impact as R11 earned by men.

Solidaridad field manager walks through Ms Mathe's beet trial tunnelSolidaridad field manager Luyanda Njanjala walks through Ms Mathe's beet trial tunnel

Making great strides

“I am just so ecstatic, to be sitting here with a contract from the Yukon Group that will see my crop reaching an export market, I’m really grateful to Solidaridad,” enthused Ms. Mathe. “The opportunity comes with new challenges of its own, however it is a great opportunity that will help me grow,” she continued. 

She will supply 60kg of three types of baby beets, turnips and green beans starting this October. Ms. Mathe, and many others like her, shows that with the right support women in farming can make great strides. 

Read more about Solidaridad's fruit and vegetable programmes

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Solidaridad and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. 

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