The life of a farmer is never easy, but joining a savings group nearly a decade ago has helped to ease the load of Nelisiwe Dlamini, while also boosting her family’s enterprise.
Dlamini lives in Mpumulwana-Centocow, a deep rural area in KwaZulu-Natal. Her village, which is under the EmaKhuzeni Traditional Authority, is a place where people maintain traditions and still enjoy cultural events. Dlamini lives with her three children and her husband, a traditional healer. Although the five-hectare farm is their joint operation, her husband is kept busy with his practice and she is more hands-on, spending most of her time in the fields or doing house work.
“We are a family that is entirely dependent on farming for all these years,” she said. “We have livestock; goats, cattle, and chickens. Besides that, we plant maize, beans, sweet potatoes, and amadumbe, which I sell. I have also planted cabbages for years which I sell at pension points and to local communities.”
The family owns a tractor which they bought to plough their fields, a car and a van which transports produce to pension payout points to be sold. They receive water from the mountain via an irrigation scheme which the community maintains.
Dlamini first heard about SaveAct from other women in the area.
“I became interested and enquired about how to become a member,” she said. “We organised ourselves as women in the area, then Nelisiwe Khubone (a community-based promoter) came to do the presentation. She mentioned that you can save with whatever you can afford. After the presentation, we all agreed to become members of the programme.
“This was the beginning of 2012 and we were the first group in the area. The name of the saving group is Siyathuthuka and we are still saving after all these years. It is difficult to save money and (apart from SaveAct) there are no programmes that educate us about how to save in our communities.”
Dlamini’s family were already running a succesful smallholder farming operation before she joined SaveAct, but their enterprise has benefited from her membership. She is part of SaveAct’s Livelhood and Enterprise Development (LED) programme, which provides training in agriculture and skills such as record-keeping, and through SaveAct she started keeping broilers.
“After my first year in saving, I decided to do broilers. I started with only 10 chicks. After that, I ordered fifty, followed by a hundred,” sadi Dlamini. She is still farming chickens despite challenges such as disease, and that part of the business brings in about R3 000 every three months. The crops she grows bring in a total of about R18 500 every six months. In addition to selling her produce at pension payout points she also supplies four spaza shops in the area.
Asked about the benefits of belonging to a group, she reels off a list.
“I like this programme because I can save and fulfil my needs. This includes education for my children. It makes things easier during December time where I can buy food for my family. We can borrow with a lower interest rate of 10 percent, with an advantage that during share-out you still benefit from the interest that you paid, by getting a percentage using the SaveAct share-out formula.”