Fresh from subsistence farms onto expats' palates
Just over three years ago, Siphiwe Sithole left her corporate marketing job to start African Marmalade. In an interview published on Fin24.com, she explained:
"My plan was to provide African staples to African expats who struggled to find their favourite food in local markets."
With her first crop grown on her family's communal land in Mpumalanga she faced some or the toughest challenges in farming as it coincided with a bad drought. Despite her meagre harvest, she persevered and worked hard, and she attributes her success to both of these skills.. She also values experience she gained during her three months in Swaziland learning from rural women about organic vegetable farming.
Today she grows and sources her supplies of vegetables such as cassava leaves, okra, collard greens and jute mallow from female subsistence farmers in Mpumalanga, Mozambique and Swaziland. She also imports avocado, peanuts, cow pea leaves and cassava. On the less than one hectare sized land, she grows sweet potatoes, pumpkin leaves and beans. Their vegetables crops are delivered weekly to independent markets and restaurants in Johannesburg, Randburg, Bryanston, Rustenburg. African Marmalade's products are sought after by African expats and health-conscious consumers. At the time of the interview, she employed six young people and gives supplying subsistence farmers a more stable source of income. Turing subsistence farming into business by giving access to bigger markets has been the focus of some big international development organisations. Ironically, it was turned into reality with a USD5000 loan from the Tony Emelu Foundation, by a small business with a vision, business skills and determination. Siphiwe believes her future lies in agro-processing, and she plans to acquire larger tracts of land.