Umthunzi - Empowering community farmers through produce
Umthunzi Farming Community was founded in 2018 after an aubergine harvest numbering in the hundreds was ripe and ready for sale but tragically went to waste instead. Farmers with little business experience and very few routes to market, suffered a severe loss of income and an emotionally devastating blow: all of their hard work had gone to waste. In response to their plight, Emma Hosking and Kim Bloch set about creating the enabling ecosystem that is Umthunzi. As a social enterprise, they aim to support individual and community growers and alter the commercial supply chain to better accommodate these small-scale farms.
Since their start, they’ve managed to create an impressive network that spans communities and includes Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Nyanga, Mitchells Plain, Philippi and Malmesbury and helped 55 small-scale farmers sell their produce to restaurants, shops, private chefs, and catering companies. In doing so, they’ve created a support system for them, ensuring no produce meaninglessly goes to waste again.
They’re a small team aiming to make a big impact on the way that South Africans eat. They’re women-led: Kim and Emma are the founders and work together to run the business, covering all the aspects of operations, sales, marketing, farmer programmes, finances and planning. Their only other permanent staff member is Baden, the son of one of the farmers with whom they work. Emma speaks highly of him: “He went from not knowing anything about vegetables to being an expert, and he is our vital and core link to the farmers. He works closely with the farmer committee to make sure everyone is involved in the decisions we make, and he knows how to find any vegetable we’re looking for!”
Of course, the most important members of Umthunzi are the farmers themselves. “The majority are over 50 years old and are mostly women,” Emma explains. “They’re all community-minded people who care for their neighbours, passers-by and families from their farms.” It’s thanks to their work that Umthunzi is able to provide UCOOK with fresh, organically grown vegetables such as carrots, aubergines, chillies, peppers, spring onions, leeks, radishes, green beans, and beetroots. And they’re still growing (so to speak): Umthunzi Farming Community is looking to expand its network and its assortment of produce to include herbs and more vegetables. The #vegwithanimpact movement they have started is only continuing to grow and they’ve been able to support capacity building, sales and logistics for more and more small-scale farmers, empowering them and the communities of which they’re such an integral part.