Zamukele: The story of an African commercial farm who adopted emerging dry bean farmers

A true testimony to the spirit of Ubuntu, the Zamukele Project by the Schoeman Group identifies emerging dry bean farmers and provides them with the necessary support to gradually become full-fledged commercial farmers. Currently, the project supports 62 farmers across various provinces in our country.

The project provides these farmers with an end-to-end solution for the production of white beans, which includes access to mentorship and technical advice, certified seeds, fertiliser, and access to both local and international markets. Each farmer receives four visits per year from two mentors who advise them during different stages of production.

Once up and running, these farmers supply their beans to the Schoeman Group on a contract basis. As soon as they harvest their beans, the crop is taken to the group’s bean plant in Delmas. There the beans are sorted and supplied to the food agro-processing industry, predominantly to be used for the manufacturing of canned foods such as baked beans. 

Success Mdluli, Zamukele’s Project Manager, says one of the most rewarding aspects of the project is that it empowers small-scale farmers who didn’t know much about dry bean farming to begin with. One such success story is that of Athalia Lolwane, who was forced to take over her family farm after both her husband and son passed away.

Following the instructions of Success and his team to the tee, she soon became one of the project’s top producers. Morapedi Mutloane is another “Success” story. When Morapedi’s path crossed that of the Schoeman Group, he was already farming, but dry bean producers were few and far between in his particular geographical area. 

However, since he started walking the road with the group, he has gained significant expertise and started to enjoy the gains of tapping into this market – a market that keeps on growing due to an increasing demand for dry white beans in South Africa and abroad.

This continued demand is driven by the nutritional value of beans, and the fact that they are regarded as an affordable source of protein. Studies show that our country doesn’t produce nearly enough beans to even satisfy our local consumption, let alone meet export requirements. 

Morapedi says a partnership with the likes of the Zamukele Project is vital to unlock the full potential of this market. Apart from what has already been mentioned, he has also gained numerous other advantages from his participation in the project. This includes exposure to best-of-breed suppliers of mechanisation solutions and equipment as well as access to credit facilities and key role players in the agrochemical industry.

If you are already a small-scale farmer of some kind, remember that white beans are a high-value option that can form an important part of your crop-rotation plan. You can easily plant beans between harvests of your other crops to ensure you don’t exhaust your soil and to control weeds, pests and diseases.

When you listen to the stories of farmers such as Athalia and Morapedi, it is clear that you really don’t need to know much about dry bean farming to get started. Especially when you consider the invaluable mentorship of the seasoned specialists that from part of the project.

Says Kallie Schoeman, CEO of the Schoeman Group, “Simply put, when you learn from someone who has already accomplished this successfully, you don’t have to pay the school fees that they have already paid.” Go to www.schoemangroup.co.za/zamukele to become one of the role players in this niche market. Follow @NicheFarmers on Facebook to connect, share and learn from other niche farmers.