Tree-preneurs growing in business

Wildlands Green-preneurs (Pty) Ltd has teamed up with the South African Sugar Association (SASA) to provide grants and project management support to Tree-preneurs (local community members who grow indigenous trees at their homesteads and then barter them for livelihood support) in exchange for the trees they have grown. The grants amounting to a total of R286 200 was part of a pilot project that was launched in June 2013.

The Wildlands uBuntu Earth team who specialize in enterprise development has been actively involved in making this project a success. Wildlands plays a mentorship role which is aimed at providing personal, financial and business management advice as well as developing the skills of the beneficiaries around market research, marketing and product development. A rigorous application process was developed following an announcement calling for applications through Wildlands’ network of facilitators. A total of 105 applications were received across all communities in KwaZulu-Natal. At the end of the selection process 40 of these 105 applicants were accepted into the programme.

“Our aim is to create an incubation pipeline for these entrepreneurs and mentor them to the point where they are able to see the growth potential of their business and are ready to apply for grants” said Siphiwe Mjadu, Wildlands Project Manager of the SASA project. “Ultimately, through this model, our vision is to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit amongst our Tree-preneur network and in our communities to cement economic sustainability.” Siphiwe Mjadu coordinated an Induction Workshop for all applicants in all project areas, explaining the mentorship programme, providing some basic training on financial record keeping as well as the requirements of the project.

Businesses that were selected for the SASA Small Business Development Grant included; sewing, poultry farming, sugar cane farming, vegetable gardening and sales, room rentals, clothing sales, tuck shops, bread making, sale of airtime and electricity, fencing and welding. In terms of the sustainability of the project, you may ask what has been done with the trees traded. A decision was made to form a partnership with the Cornubia Community Trust – through Tongaat Hulett Developments, to enable the sale of 38170 trees to be sold on to the private landscaping market. The first sale agreement for 5 000 trees purchased is currently being finalised with Leitch Landscaping. These trees will be used on the Cornubia site – a pioneer mixed-use, mixed income development (in the greater Umhlanga area).

Philisiwe Mthembu who is one of the entrepreneurs from the Tembe area runs a vegetable farming business of over 9 ha and sells her vegetables at the market. She has three part time employees helping her with planting, removing weeds and irrigating crops such as maize, cabbages, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, beetroot, carrots, peanuts and spinach. “With funds received from SASA I have managed to purchase another water pump as the one I had was not working properly. This has made my work a lot easier, quicker and more productive,” she concludes.

Wildlands story Babe Dube Farmer Uthungulu district KZN ed147 dec14