Hebron Mango Tree Growers

ReStory Narrator: Precious Chauke

Cooperative background

Hebron Mango Tree Growers is a cooperative based in Hebron, in the North West Province. It was started by a group of residents in 2016 after realising that the area is home to many farmers with an array of mango and citrus fruit trees in their yards. The fruit trees were however not beneficial to the farmers or the community because they were only meant for consumption and no financial gain.

According to the Department of Agriculture, farming and crop production is meant to strengthen the economic status and uplift the lifestyle of farmers, but this is not the reality of the residents of Hebron. It was then that a community meeting was held with all the fruit tree owners in the community to educate them about the value of the plants in their backyards.

Objectives

The objective of the cooperative are:

  • To promote community development.
  • Alleviate poverty.
  • To create employment and drive entrepreneurship.
  • To provide a quality service in the communities at a lowest possible price.
  • To identify and like small-scale farmers, especially females and the youth to take part in the project.
  • Mobilise 3000 small-scale farmers who will coordinate the reach of 40 000-mango trees.

Vision

To become a leading vibrant organization that empowers all Owners of the mango trees in communities and townships in South Africa to utilize the collective value of their mango trees to be involved in the food security sector, driven by sustainable agricultural practices and entrepreneurship in order to become commercial Farmers and develop livelihood of our communities.

Mission

To work with all key stakeholders including members of the community of the Madibeng District, the local government and organisations in private and government sectors to:

  • Develop a mango Suppliers’ database with the purpose of quantifying the number of mango trees and using the latest technology (apps) to communicate with all our suppliers.
  • Empower Mango Tree Owners to care for their trees in order to ensure production of quality fruits.
  • Encourage the communities, especially the youth and women to plant more mango trees in order to reach a target of 40 000 trees needed to supply the Atchaar factory
  • Source additional land from the respective communities’ leadership structures as well as encouraging usage of current spaces in the different households for planting of more mango trees.
  • Encourage intercropping, i.e. combining other vegetables with the mango trees in order to ensure quicker income generation through vegetable produce whilst awaiting the growth of mango trees.  
  • Organize the “turn your mangoes into cash campaigns” on a yearly basis during the mango season, (October to December) in order to collect all green mangoes for Atchaar production.

Funding

The cooperative was formed in 2016 and after extensive research, meetings with the tribal council and local councillors, compilation of documents and assistance from Gender CC Southern Africa –Women for Climate Justice; Hebron Mango Tree Growers was awarded funding from the Government of Flanders in February 2019. The members of the cooperative were really excited to that the cooperative can finally be operational and their objectives can finally be fulfilled. This meant that the real work had to start, including but not limited to:

  • Recruiting lead farmers and creating training programs to educate them about agriculture and farming.
  • Building and running small businesses
  • Benefits of growing plans.
  • Financial and business management.
  • Implementation of turn green mango into cash campaign.
  • Long term plan of eventually owing a mango-cutting factory in order to supply already cut mango.

Turn green mangoes into cash

The campaign started in Nov 2018, with the help of Mr Haroon Afzal, one of the off-takers with whom Hebron Mango Tree Growers supplies green mangoes for atchar produce, who explaining the pricing model, which mangoes are best for making atchar, mango picking and mango collection logistics.

In November 2019, the cooperative embarked on a 5-day green mango collection campaign, which took place from 25 to 29 November in the Madibeng District. The process began when the field workers Freddy Piroe together and Lehumo Mogashwa took to the community to raise awareness about the campaign. This included compiling surveys, doing door-to-door campaigns and meeting with fruit tree owners to establish the number of mango tree in order to estimate the quantities, distributing pamphlets and flyers and informing the community about the mango collection campaign in the areas of focus.

Each area or section of the area had a collection point allocated were the mangoes would be collected on allocated dates. The lead farmers were informed to pick the mangoes on the morning of the day of collection and gather at collection points.

During collection, the mangoes were transferred into standard crates and would then be weighed on a scale and that is how the farmers would be paid for their produce. On average, about five crates were collected per farmer.

The areas and collection dates were as follows:

  • 25 November 2019: Hebron
  • 26 November 2019: Kgabalatsane and Rabokala
  • 27 November 2019: Site visit from sponsors
  • 28 November 2019: Mmupudung
  • 29 November 2019: Klipgat and Madidi

The lead farmers had very interesting views and opinions to share in different areas. Below is what they had to say:

Miss Sandra – Hebron, Moseja Section

Her neighbours who were used to consuming mangoes at no cost every year were really disappointed when on the morning of the collection when she informed them that she had found people who would like to buy green mangoes from her, because it meant that they won’t have any to enjoy anymore because she was only going to leave enough for her family to consume once ripe. She went on to say that, they would refuse to buy the mangoes even when she would sell them for R1.00 each, irrespective of the size. She has numerous fruit trees including oranges, lemons and figs and says that she will continue planting more trees due to the demand of green mangoes. ”Thank you Hebron Mango Tree Growers, the money will make a difference in my home.”

Gogo Phunyane – Hebron Motse section

Gogo Phunyane has numerous mango trees in her backyard, she was very specific regarding which trees to pick from, and when asked about the financial value that the mangoes brought to her prior to the ‘turn your green mangoes into cash’ campaign she said: “Moseja has a lot of mango trees, every house in the area has multiple mango trees so there is literally no one to sell the mangoes to. They do not make me any money, once they are ripe, I share them with my children and what is left over gets disposed as it is about to rot.” Gogo Phunyane managed to fill up 15 crates of mangoes which made her some money.

Letlhogonolo Hebron Moseja section

A young small business owner who makes use of data to run his business which operates from home ran out of data on the morning of the collection, he was quite happy when the van came to collect what he had already picked and arranged for the field workers to come and collect more before the end of the day. This also motivated his friend who was initially not keen on the idea when he realised that his friend was making money, he then went home to do the same.

The team took to the village of Madidi and Klipgat on the 29 November; these were the last collection points for the campaign. The residents of Madidi are the elderly who had either forgotten about the collection dates although they were reminded or did not have anyone to assist with picking mangoes from the trees.

The field workers had to be ‘all hands on deck’ and pick the mangoes themselves. A Gentleman named Thabo took it upon himself to assist with the picking process. The houses have big yards and multiple mango trees that two casual workers were employed and from one of the farmers 22 crates were collected.

The casual workers were quite happy with the days picking of mangoes because they managed to make them extra cash from helping pick the mangoes on that day. They would like to be informed of any future initiatives, as they are young people from the community.

This is what Thabo had to say: “I believe in farming and the benefits thereof, including having fresh produce for daily consumption and when such opportunities such arise, money can be made.”

Review from field workers

Freddy Piroe: “I would like to see us becoming a hub for cooperatives in the villages and local community and assist them in more ways than one and most importantly, make them sustainable.

I want to empower the youth to also get into farming and bring back organic farming.”

Lehumo Mogashwa: “We encountered a few challenges including farmers refusing to sell their mangoes to us after having agreed initially, saying that the price per crate is too low. In future I suggest that contracts should be put in place which will be binding to both farmers and the cooperative, in that way no one will change their mind at the last minute, meaning they will be bound to only sell to us for the duration of the contract.”

Irrespective of the challenge encountered, the team looks forward to a fruitful future business with the local community.

Site visit from sponsors

Bart Laethen and Geraldine Reymenano’s from the Government of Flanders attended a site visit at the Hebron Mango Tree Growers offices. The purpose of the visit was for the members of the cooperative to outline their plans for the cooperative, plans to empower the local community and lead farmers, the future of the cooperative, ‘turn green mangoes into cash’ campaign and the difference stakeholders involved.

The day was filled with a lot of activities which included taking the guests on a tour around where daily operations are run, they were shown the nursery which is being developed on site, the vegetables garden and crops that have been planted, mango atchar tasting using the mangoes collected from the lead farmers as well as a site visit to one of the lead farmers in Hebron.

A question and answer session was also held were attendees interacted with the guests. Below are the views and opinions raised;

  • Peter Matlakala a lead farmers from Hebron has been growing mangoes for over 20 years and faced challenges of wilting and the mangoes rotting while they were still small, and often being eaten by insects and the scourge of hail storms would frustrate her so much that he had decided to chop down the trees but since the inception of the campaign and trainings provided, he knows how to better look after his trees and is going to plan more trees which will bring him more money.
  • Rebecca Pekane is a female lead farmer who had initially planted the trees for family consumption, her children are now grown and have left home and she was left with a lot of trees and no one to consume the mangoes, they started making her yard dirty and had decided to cut down the tree at the end of this year but that is not going to happen anymore because there’s a great demand for green mangoes from the Hebron Mango Tree Growers.
  • Gabriel Lekalakala from the South African Weather Service would like to rope in an NGO called Subtrop, which deals with subtropical fruits. Their extension officers will provide training to the farmers about pruning in order to increase yields, fertilisation, pest management and sanitising after each season.
  • Alex Malapane from the South African Weather Service wants to volunteer in the cooperative and will assist in commercialising the products the produce to big chain stores and in assist in processing the mangoes and eventually getting their own mango-cutting factory.
  • “This is the last year that we will be selling green mangoes to off-takers, from 2020 we will have our own mango cutting factory and develop our own atchar brand.” – Ben Masilo, Chairman of Hebron Mango Tree Growers.
Phinky more demonstrating the process of weighing the mangoes
Tabea Masilo, Ben Masilo and Phinky More – members of the cooperative

The sponsors were then taken to Mr Thwane’s farm in Hebron. He managed to supply 15 crates of green mangoes. He has a big farm in his backyard where he is intercropping different fruits and vegetables. He also raised challenges caused by the extreme weather conditions which affects his crops. He was also happy with the initiative brought by the cooperative to the community of Hebron because he is now better equipped to care for his crops.

Mr. Thwane’s farm
Tasting the atchar made from locally picked mangoes
Team work makes the dream work” – John Maxwell. Field workers Freddy Piroe and casual workers

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