12 September 2013 Volume :1 Issue :1

Msinga Nutrition Fair a boon for the rural community

Msinga Nutrition Fair a boon for the rural community
Women from agricultural farming groups dressed in traditional attire attend the 2013 Msinga Nutrition Fair.

As Women’s Month drew to a close, the scenic area of Msinga Top played host to the third annual Msinga Nutrition Fair organised by UKZN’s Farmer Support Group (FSG).

The Fair is described as ‘a way of encouraging groups in Msinga to learn and reflect on their accomplishments annually’.

The FSG is a Pietermaritzburg-based community outreach and research unit within UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

The Unit has played a pivotal role in identifying the challenges faced by smallholder farmers in the KwaZulu-Natal area and actively works on engaging these farmers in useful initiatives which focus primarily on improving their livelihoods. 

Women in the Msinga region are faced not only with limitations in terms of their hierarchal cultural standing, but also encounter numerous difficulties in terms of agricultural practices and potential for growth and success in this specific arena.

The FSG has played a crucial role in addressing these issues, and acting as a medium which places women in the Msinga area in a position to actively improve their livelihoods through community-driven agricultural practices. FSG’s reach extends to overall livelihood improvement of the community through empowering women in terms of craft production and HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives.

The Unit began work in Msinga in 2001 and since then 10 women’s groups have started community gardens in the area. This not only provides food sources for the women and their families but also sees surplus crop yields being supplied to local supermarkets providing a further source of income for these women.

The Fair itself allows the groups to showcase their produce, market it and in the spirit of community it provides an ideal platform for the agricultural groups to engage in a cross-communicational exchange of ideas, sharing of difficulties and the offering of advice and solutions.

A number of keynote addresses were given by community leaders and various stakeholders including representatives from the government Departments of Health, Social Development, Education and Agriculture; and Councillors from the Msinga Municipality.

FSG’s Ms Gail du Toit thanked all stakeholders as well as the agricultural groups for their hard work and encouraged a cross-exchange of ideas and learning. ‘It’s amazing to see how the project has grown with established groups now training new groups; showing us how our group effort is manifesting positively through such exponential growth. We must continue the excellent work and always keep in our consciousness the issue of climate change and preserving our land,’ she said.

The event ended with a colourful display by the women dressed in their elaborate and beautiful attire.

FSG, an externally funded organisation, is also involved in similar agricultural empowerment initiatives in the Bergville area.

author : Barrington Marais
author email : maraisb@ukzn.ac.za