UKZN Farmer Support Group Hosts 6th Annual Food and Nutrition FairGeneral

From left: Ms Nokubonga Shezi of the UKZN Farmer Support Group; Ms Mugeliwe Mchunu of Machunwini; and Ms Sizakele Nkala, Ms Buyenani Ngubane and Ms Qhoshangani Ngubane, all of uMsinga.From left: Ms Nokubonga Shezi of the UKZN Farmer Support Group; Ms Mugeliwe Mchunu of Machunwini; and Ms Sizakele Nkala, Ms Buyenani Ngubane and Ms Qhoshangani Ngubane, all of uMsinga.

More than 250 people attended the 6th annual Food and Nutrition Fair in Msinga hosted by the Farmer Support Group (FSG) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). 

Participants included community members, FSG and UKZN staff members, representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (KZN DARD), staff and students from the University of Zululand, and ward councillors for the area. 

Small-scale farmers from Msinga and Bergville shared how they plant, tend their plots (using minimum tillage), save their seeds, cultivate their seedlings and market their produce, encouraging the use of organic produce, even in animal feed. The theme was “From Seed to Plate”, and featured displays of crops and crafts which were on sale. 

The event included a visit to vegetable plots alongside the Mooi River, where two pumps, supplied by the FSG and by the Department of Social Development, and an irrigation system, have enabled farmers to continue producing crops despite the severe drought. 

The group of 30 farmers grow vegetables, and farmed cattle until the drought decimated their herds. 

The farmers use no fertilisers or chemicals, and use inter-cropping methods to control pests. Despite the abundant and healthy crops produced year round, market access remains a challenge. The profit from the crops runs households and sends children to school. 

Farmers have been able to work with unemployed youth, teaching them the value of agriculture. 

Dean and Head of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), Professor Albert Modi, invited young people to visit the University to learn and access opportunities to improve their communities. 

The farmers lauded FSG for their assistance in enabling them to teach their children, make profit and support themselves. 

Ms Nonhlanhla Mthembu of FSG, who facilitated the day, expressed hope that those who attended learnt something. 

A spokesperson for one community said they were happy with what they had learnt, and joked that one day they hoped to buy an aeroplane with their farming profits. They also thanked the FSG for teaching them how to grow their own seedlings. 

KZN DARD Extension Officer Ms Phumelele Khanyile was pleased to see farming operations had grown, saying the focus should move to goat farming. She encouraged the one home, one garden concept, and the use of grey water for irrigation. 

FSG Director Dr Maxwell Mudhara thanked those who attended, particularly the group hosting the event for the second time. 

‘This group struggled a little bit,’ he said, ‘but their new gardens have blossomed and they have gone from strength to strength, with many new members joining.’ 

Mudhara also raised the issue of climate change, emphasising the importance of enhancing resilience. He encouraged farmers to continue growing their own seedlings rather than buying them, and re-emphasised the importance of considering what chemicals were put into food, and mentioned the need to find ways to sell what was produced.

Christine Cuénod