The voice of agriculture . Die stem van landbou . Izwe lezokulima

Green shoots of agriculture offer promise as does Kwanalu Wyre in supporting entrepreneurs and creating jobs in the rural areas of KZN

Hennie Heymans CEO of DHL South Africa, spoke at the GIBS Business School 2024 Foresight meeting about the agriculture sector as a “massive green shoot” in Africa requiring public private partnerships to ignite it. He also said that there are 4 million SMMEs operating in Africa with the majority operating in the informal sector, and he asked what business can do to get these SMMEs into the formal sector and contributing to the economy.


Kwanalu Women and Youth Rural Entrepreneurship (Wyre) operates exactly in this space aimed at strengthening rural communities through supporting entrepreneurs in the agricultural value chain – producers, traders, and service providers. Enterprises range from vegetable production to spaza shops to providing child care services, food preparation and events, bead design and sewing uniforms.


Wyre was started as a response to the humanitarian crisis that faced many rural towns and communities after Covid19 and the July 2021 riots in KZN. It was intended to help women and youth in business to up-scale their activities and, more importantly, provide jobs in the rural economy to stem the flow of people to the cities and for Wyre participants to become job creators and not job takers.


Starting with a pilot project in November 2021 and 91 participants, Wyre alone has supported 1500 participants to date, while other Kwanalu programmes like the agricultural placement programme Future Farmers and the partnership programme with the RPO have assisted between 5000 to 7000 people. Altogether, Kwanalu programmes have contributed 20 000 jobs to the rural economy and supported 200 400 livelihoods. The Wyre programme demonstrating that it can, within 6 months reduce dependency by 30% and improving incomes by 20%.


Wyre participants start the programme reviewing their own performance as leaders – in their own lives, their families, their businesses, and their communities. This introspection often addresses the trauma of past events providing the participants with a clean slate to move forward. Then its onwards and upwards with entrepreneurial training focusing largely on money management and the tools required to manage key business indicators like cash flow, stock in hand, costing and pricing, markets, and savings. One participant said “I learned about how to manage money and how to use it properly and I have learned that I am a leader and can make my own decisions”. Wyre is aimed at #changing mindsets #changing lives.


The design of the programme is flexible allowing for funder requirements to also be considered and all projects to date have been externally funded. Kwanalu is able to link participants into networks and commodities with commercial farmers often assisting groups with their technical knowledge. Where start-up funding is provided for enterprises, links to retailing partners in the sector often secure the best prices. Very often the best outcomes are achieved when the women and youth network allowing them to identify their own opportunities and encourages co-operation within communities.


Why should we care about what Kwanalu is busy activating through its Wyre programme? Why should we be asking ourselves how we can donate or fund the programme? How can we strengthen and preserve rural communities?


Through Wyre, Kwanalu is actively building relationships with the farmers of the future, the farmers who will feed the nation locally, supplementing the contribution of farmers who have the scale and resources to supply local and international markets, bringing critical Forex into the country. More importantly Kwanalu Wyre is starting conversations with agriculture at the heart of these conversations, finding a commonplace and building trust, and restoring dignity and respect through self- employment and creating jobs in rural communities. This is all Kwanalu Wyre can do with the tools provided to continue to build a future for our rural communities and our country.


In this we are not alone, Margaret J. Wheatley says that “Nothing has given me more hope recently than to observe how simple conversations give birth to actions that can change lives and restore our faith in the future. There is no more powerful way to initiate significant social change than to start a conversation. When a group of people discover that they share a common concern, that’s when the process of change begins.”


We ask you to start the conversation with us today and reach out to Dr Kathy Hurly the Wyre project leader at wyre@kwanalu.co.za