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Using agroecology to elevate small-scale farming at Althea Plots

Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA) spearhead various initiatives using agroecology to elevate small-scale farming across South Africa. This approach to sustainable farming works alongside nature at projects such as Althea Plots. The farm is reaping the benefits of 29 FTFA training workshops conducted over the last year, as well as funding from HSBC organised through FTFA.

Thembeni Eunice Nxumalo started the family-run farm in 2012. The farm began in her back garden in Grasmere, on the outskirts of Gauteng. Along with her son, his wife, and four friends, Thembeni registered Althea Plots as a cooperative in 2015. As a result, they have been selling vegetables to the local community ever since and going from strength to strength. Additionally, the project received considerable attention in the media as an example of how small-scale farming can uplift communities.

Principles of agroecology

Althea Plots is a shining example how FTFA’s FEED Africa Farmer Support Programme benefits farmers. Like our Food Forests initiative, FEED Africa uses agroecology to foster a more sustainable and harmonious approach to farming. It is based on several core principles aimed at helping small-scale farmers to grow sustainably:

  • using natural farming methods like building soil health;
  • promoting technical agriculture and business skills;
  • and practising social dynamics and value relationships.

The programme also teaches an understanding of the value chain and the need to take responsibility for one’s own production costs. 

Althea Plots infrastructure

The funding provided by HSBC through FTFA focused on developing much-needed infrastructure. FTFA drew up a development plan in close collaboration with project members. The plan addressed key needs such as security, water supply, and market access, . 

More than 450m of fencing was erected to improve security. Additionally, a three-metre high gate that controls access to the farm was installed. An 80,000-litre water reservoir was also installed, and the main water supply lines were upgraded. The old 40mm low pressure system was replaced by a 50mm high pressure system linked to two 2.2kW booster pumps.

A major challenge in terms of market access is the post-harvest supply chain. To help overcome this, FTFA designed and installed a solar-powered packhouse facility. The facility includes a mobile cold room as well as packaging and processing equipment. A 5kW solar power system enables the facility to run completely off-grid. Althea Plots now stores temperature-sensitive crops during harvest and deliver them to market without breaking the cold chain.

The newly-established enterprise orchard is thriving. Many of the 200 trees are already bearing fruit and the companion plants are flowering. FTFA has workshopped important agroecology concepts like alley cropping, successional planting, and the value of supportive plants.

All these upgrades have facilitated expansion to meet rising demand. Althea Plots now sells to local suppliers as well as the Johannesburg Market. Donate to FTFA to take more small scale farmers to market!

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