A flagship example: Moving our people from poverty to food security

When we rise up to empower people to become economically active, where they live and with what they have, there is no limit to where they can go. The Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) programme by the Schoeman Group is a flagship example of how this can be achieved, even among the poorest of communities.

The programme, which started running in 2016, has successfully uplifted 2 800 households from 63 communities in rural areas, such as Sekhukhuneland between Limpopo and Mpumalanga, which has previously been marked by unemployment rates of up to 60%. Based on the current growth rate, the programme should reach no less than 10 000 such households by 2025.

While helping to establish sustainable livelihoods is a significant outcome of the programme, it is arguable that moving people from a state of hopelessness to having new hope for the future has had the most impact.

Khanyi Khoza and Palesa Manda, two BBL participants, explain that they basically had nothing when they were first introduced to the programme, but that they have since been able to turn their lives around. Khanyi says that both she and her husband were formerly unemployed, but now they are doing well enough to even send their daughter to university.

“We can also rest assured that neither us nor our neighbours will ever have to go to bed hungry again,” she says. Similarly, Palesa went from completely down and out to now boasting more than 100 green pepper and cucumber plants, 200 lettuces and 500 spinach plants as well as chickens of her own, all of which she sells to create a better life.

Kallie Schoeman, CEO of the Schoeman Group, explains that it is exactly at this point, where people start producing more than they can eat themselves, that they can start their own little business. Which is also how it played out for Tsholo Nonke, another BBL participant.

He learnt how to start growing and selling cabbages. From the money he makes, he buys other essentials, such as mielie meal and electricity. He now even employs a worker to help with his cabbage business. “It stays with a person, you know, when you can stand up by yourself and no longer have to rely on handouts,” he says.

To roll this programme out, the Schoeman Group partnered with SocioTech and Umsizi. Dedicated BBL facilitators visit the communities and teach them how to start farming on a small scale, with minimal resources. As such, they start off with something as basic as digging a trench and throwing “rubbish” in it, to create fertile soil.

By rubbish, we mean leftover chicken bones for minerals, food cans for zinc, and newspaper for carbon dioxide, all of which help plants grow quicker, healthier and bigger. They are also taught to reuse grey water, which is water we normally use for domestic purposes, such as washing the dishes and bathing.

Once they have their soil and water sorted, they are given seeds to start growing their own vegetables according to the “traffic light concept”, which basically means growing a variety of green, red and yellow vegetables. Kallie says it is in that moment, when a person harvests that very first carrot or cabbage from their own land, that they experience pride and rediscover their own purpose.

Which is essentially what inspired Kallie’s son, Hendrik Schoeman (Executive Director of the Schoeman Group) to initiate the BBL programme. You can go to www.schoemangroup.co.za to read more about it.

For us, one of the biggest takeaways from this story is that all you really need to start creating a better life for yourself is a little piece of land and a helping hand. Follow @NicheFarmers on Facebook to see how others use what they have to become successful, small-scale farmers.