Mondi Zimele, the small business development arm of Mondi Ltd in South Africa, provides equity, loans and business development support to employment-creating small businesses within the Mondi value chain and surrounding communities.
Its grassroots food security and agricultural development programme assists communities in establishing and improving small farms in and around Mondi and SiyaQhubeka forestry areas in Zululand. Nine co-operatives and three individual farmers are currently enrolled in the programme, which benefits over 2 100 households across the region.
“Employment opportunities in rural areas are challenging and due to Covid-19, the situation has worsened,” explains Nelly Ndlovu, CEO of Mondi Zimele.“Food security is a top priority within our communities and we recognised that we need to help our communities optimise what they have at their disposal, which is fertile land,” she said.
“The first aim is subsistence,” says Ndlovu, “but we are identifying those with the potential to upscale their farms to small businesses. We provide basic agricultural and business training. We also work closely with Mondi and SiyaQhubeka Forests to improve infrastructure, where possible, and look to leverage government and development agency support.”
Mondi Zimele appointed a full-time agricultural extension officer, Tholinhlanhla Dindi, to assist people in establishing, maintaining and improving their small farms, and the company connects farmers with markets for the sale of excess produce.
“This landscape is excellent for farming and farms can produce from January to December,” says Tholinhlanhla, adding that farmers can supply in the off-season, which puts them in a good position for the market. Rainfall is sufficient and the soil quality is good.
The programme’s success is evident in the empowerment of women and youth. The end goal is to create sustainable livelihoods with growth potential, resulting in both social and economic mobility.
A total of 87 hectares of land, of which 67 hectares is a groundnut-intercropping project at Mondi’s forest plantation in Umfolozi, are currently part of the programme and 237 members are working on these projects.