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The Grain SA CA Farmer Innovation Programme (FIP) in smallholder communities introduces conservation agricultural (CA) practices to improve productivity, resilience and food security, but also contributes significantly to broader community development and social capital.

Mrs Phumelele Thembisile Hlongwane’s story is a good example of a local smallholder who has been empowered and encouraged to improve her farming system in order to feed her family and make an income for herself, but also play a mentoring role for other women in her village.

Hlongwane is a 38-year-old woman and a mother of six from Ezibomvini village near Emmaus, Bergville area. She says her passion stems from agriculture’s ability to enable her to be self-reliant, and in her case the key is diversification of her farming system.

She has a vegetable garden in her homestead planted to a wide variety of crops including brassicas, cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes and green peppers. She owns the following livestock: Three cattle, six goats, two pigs and a flock of indigenous chickens. She also grows field crops such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, dry beans and soybeans.

‘Maka Ndoza’, as she is affectionately known, joined the Grain SA CA project in 2014 and is now the community facilitator of her Ezibomvini learning group. She is a member of the village savings and loan association, along with other members of her learning group. Here they save and take small loans for inputs and other livelihood necessities. She is also one of the pioneers of the programme’s local farmer centre model, which she runs jointly with her sister-in-law, Mrs Zodwa Zikode, who is also a member of the learning group.

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