A group of disabled women from the poverty-stricken Vhembe region in Limpopo are using agriculture to fight poverty and unemployment and put bread on the table for their families this Christmas – and beyond.
This area and the Sekhukhune region have the highest unemployment rate in the province, especially after the economic devastation caused by Covid-19.
At the Konanani disability agricultural project in Pile, north of Thohoyandou, the women wake early every morning to till the land, plant fruit trees, grow vegetables and breed chickens, which they sell and keep the profit to buy Christmas goodies and get their children to school.
The group comprises the deaf, the physically disabled, the blind and mute, and others.
“We cannot allow our physical challenges to deter us from fending for our children,” said project chair Lydia Nemafhogoni recently.
Nemafhogoni said the project started in 2004 and was registered in 2009.
“We are receiving support from the department of agriculture and rural development. They give us everything, including feeds, seeds, manure, farming tools and water.
“We also own a supermarket, where we sell groceries to locals. But that is not enough. We also need a financial injection from government to open a drop-in centre for orphans and children from impoverished families.”
During his state of the province address last year, Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha said his government had planned to use agriculture, mining and tourism to grow the province’s economy.
Speaking during the launch of Disability Month at Pile, Vhembe district municipality mayor Dowelani Nenguda said Pile was hard hit by the economic meltdown.
He added: “We are proud today to have women in our community with disability challenges using the energy they have to fight poverty and create employment for themselves and communities in which they live.
“We as the Vhembe district municipality are proud to say our doors are still open to assist projects such as Konanani because they have emulated the spirit of vuku zenzele (wake up and do for yourself).”