Keiskammahoek Farmers Market Day: reviving the rural economy for small-holder farmers
On 1 November 2017 the farmers market was held in the CBD area of Keiskammahoek, the first in recent memory. The market was a splendid display of farmers’ produce and overall a big success. Farmers and consumers came out in numbers to support the event. The event was collectively organized by the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR), ARDRI, Umtiza Farmers Corp, the Keiskammahoek District Farmers Association and Ntinga Ntaba Kandoda.
On the day, different partners made different contributions. The Keiskammahoek District Farmers Association hired a tent and of course helped organise its members; DRDAR assisted with transporting farmers and their produce; ARDRI hired another tent, hired the sound system, and helped with transport; Umtiza provided yet another tent. Part of what got the partners together beforehand, however, the research was conducted by Fort Hare student Wandisile Sixoto, who also works at ARDRI. “I did research on consumers, farmers and retailers in the Keiskammahoek area in order to understand what’s going on here. I also did research about the farmers markets that are on-going in Taung and Mafikeng in the North West Province, and in Raymond Mhalba earlier this year.” This research was supported by a grant from the United States’ Agency for International Development
The purpose of the farmers market is to help revive the rural economy by bridging the gap between smallholder farmers and consumers. For various reasons the majority of smallholder farmers and consumers struggle to market into the formal sector on advantageous terms while selling informally can be time-consuming. Farmers market was a way coordinating farmers and consumers in time and location so that these informal transactions are easier. In this case, the ‘time’ was deliberately chosen to be social grant payout day, and the ‘location’ was a site immediately across the road from the KKH taxi rank more or less equidistant between KKH’s main ATMs.
Given that this was the first farmers’ market in KKH, there were plenty of problems and mistakes. Even so, judging by the response of the farmers, the event was a success. It is estimated that total sales were in the order of R20 000, and most of this occurred over a period of two hours.
Bulelwa Somdaka, a farmer from Lower Zingcuka Agricultural Co-operation, said that “We are so happy because the vegetables that we brought here are almost finished.” One buyer came from as far away as King William’s Town: Zikhona Lubambo came to the market after she heard an announcement on radio: “This has helped us a lot, those of us who are not in the agricultural sector to be able to get fresh vegetables, I wish this could be done every quarter because we would definitely support it.” Most of the transactions involved fresh vegetables, however there was also home-made soap and facial creams, chicken (raw and cooked), pork (raw), home-made bread and beverages, and traditional clothing items.
Other invited participants in the event were the Department of Social Development, ABSA, Fort Cox Collage of Agriculture, and Fosst Discovery Center from the University of Fort Hare. “Students from Fort Cox Collage were purposefully invited to bridge the gap between the younger generation and the older generation in farming because farming is mostly perceived as an occupation for old people” said Mr Sixoto.