Improving sustainable livelihoods through organic produce marketing opportunities : evaluation of the Ezemvelo Farmers Organisation.
For many poor rural South African communities, involvement in agriculture remains one of their most secure livelihood strategies. For the majority of these people, indigenous knowledge and the use of local materials, resources and skills is often the only asset they possess. The Ezemvelo Farmers Organisation (EFO) from the community of Embo in KwaZulu-Natal is one such group of rural people befitting this description. In the absence of financial resources to purchase relatively expensive agricultural inputs, accompanied by a lack of infrastructural development in their community, EFO farmers have become organic farmers by default. EFO members produce mainly traditional organic crops. However, little has been documented about the potential value of trade in these products. The purpose of this study was to explore potential marketing opportunities for traditional organic products through the mobilisation of indigenous knowledge, skills, and natural resources to improve the livelihoods of EFO members. A research team of three postgraduate students, each involved in his/her own independent study, worked in collaboration to collect relevant research information. Five data collection tools were used to collect this information. These were a household survey, a sustainable livelihoods analysis, a forcefield analysis, a stakeholder analysis, and a workshop. Research results showed that there are five stakeholders involved in EFO activities, each with his/her own personal interests. EFO members mainly produce amadumbe, sweet potatoes, and potatoes, which they market to a packhouse, the local community, and to hawkers. Other crop varieties are produced for household consumption and small quantities are sold to the local community and hawker markets. Farmers obtained a slightly higher price for crops sold to the packhouse as compared to the other two markets. The packhouse was the farmers' largest market for the 2002 season. However, the packhouse market was unsustainable for farmers because of problems due to the delays in payments for produce, the high quantities of crops that are rejected because they did not meet the quality control standards of the packhouse, and problems due to the unreliability of transport from Embo to the packhouse. The majority of EFO members' farms were also found to be unprofitable due to the high costs of inputs and losses to production. Constraints such as a shortage of kraal manure for soil conditioning, unfenced properties, a lack of water for irrigation, and the unavailability of a tractor for ploughing were found to be contributing factors to the unprofitability of member farms. Recommendations for improving marketing and profitability were that projects involving farmers should be regularly evaluated, EFO members seek business management skills, direct contracting agreements with their suppliers, explore value added products, and for Government to play a role for rural enterprise development to take place.
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