City of Johannesburg

With equity as a central principle, it followed that all local economic activity stimulated by the programme would require a business structure that embodies such a vision. Co-operatives, where communities and workers jointly own a concern, emerged as the best model. Two years after the establishment of the first agricultural co-operatives, Director of COPAC and trustee Vishwas Satgar says tangible results have emerged. These take various forms.

The structures are up and running and they have empowered communities who are now taking the initiative and starting their own businesses using their new skills. An umbrella structure, called the Greater Midrand Organic Agricultural Co-operative, houses six smaller agricultural co-ops, all of which grow organic food both for subsistence and for the local market. A growing appetite for organic produce means the community is looking at ways of adding value to their produce by processing into honey, vinegar, jams, sauces, herbs, vegetable and fruit preserves. But this will entail ratcheting up production, which at the moment is running only at slightly above subsistence levels. But EcoCity has not only assisted the council in charting the way for a new development paradigm: “The City has taken on board all the EcoCity ideas and concepts in its policy development, for instance in the City’s Sustainable Development Strategy,” says Mokgohloa.

Ninety jobs in agriculture have been created as the dream has become a reality and a range of fruit and vegetables have been harvested. “Agriculture is a highly visible example of community progress and is ultimately likely to act as a catalyst and lead to the promotion of deeper development,” says director Annie Sugrue. Members benefit through economies of scale because their input costs are lowered; unhealthy price competition is avoided and training is ongoing. “Our model ensured that people were linked to the land,” says Satgar, adding that the next challenge is to make the shift from subsistence farming to marketing and retail.

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