Umgibe is a carbon-saving, ecological-organic, self-help job creation vegetable box scheme which currently provides weekly boxes filled with vegetables grown by grassroots farmers from the sub-economic townships of KZN. Boxes of ‘picked-and-packed-that-day’ vegetables are delivered weekly to schools, institutions and businesses in the greater KZN area, where they are collected by the clients from a distribution point within each organization. The vegetables are bought from local micro-farmers who have been contracted to grow for Umgibe.
Umgibe has moved “growing vegetables” to true social uplift-ment in enterprise development and supplier development, effectively dragging people out from the base of the pyramid to empowered entrepreneurs. This ingenious system even solves the issues of herbicides and pesticides and uses a fraction of the water needed for conventional agriculture.
Umgibe's main focus is on promote agriculture through organics and includes vegetable and plant propagation that aims to ensure food security in KZN. All the members of the co-operative are 100% involved in the day to day operations of the venture.
The cooperative was established after it had identified the following problems:
Prevalence of poverty and food insecurity in Africa and especially in townships and rural areas a dire need to stimulate the local economy and encourage women and youth entrepreneurship.
Climate change is bringing many challenges to local farmers and nutritional problems.
High unemployment and malnutrition. Umgibe is therefore informed by the above socio-economic challenges in all its economic activities. Besides being managed on sound business and profit oriented principles as part of its social responsibility activities it will contribute to increased agricultural production and poverty reduction among smallholder and women farmers.
Umgibe Farming Organics position in the Development Chain (continuum) Umgibe aims to support approximately 150 micro-farmers (home gardeners and community allotment gardeners) each year. Most micro-farmers are at survival level (new farmers) and at subsistence level (more experienced farmers). These survival and subsistence farmers are the driving force behind the urban farming movement in KZN. 2500 of these micro-farmers run home-based gardens, while 500 run community allotment gardens.
Umgibe is the instrument launched to “pull” survival and subsistence farmers along the Development Chain, from Survival level, into Subsistence level and then into Livelihood level. Livelihood level is the ‘semi-commercial’ level ie: 50% cash crops and 50% of their produce for own home and local community consumption. Livelihood level is the level at which Umgibe aim to establish most of the 500 micro-farmers (allotment gardeners) they support each year. Umgibe also “pushes” (supports) the farmers, through its ongoing training, bulk supply and extension support programme. Livelihood level retains all the health and social benefits of small community-level farming systems while also allowing for self- help job creation, where farmers can earn up to R1500/month per farmer off 2x 7 structure per farmer.
Umgibe thus also has the potential in future to assist some Livelihood level farmers to transit into Commercial level, where farmers can sell 100% of their crops for cash. The downside of ‘pure commercial’ is that social and even direct health benefits (from consumption of own fresh produce) tend to go out the window in the scramble for personal profit and do not normally re-appear as a factor in the development chain until people have become wealthy.
UMGIBE is involved in the following activities:
- Commercial Vegetable production: The produce includes spinach, beet root, tomatoes, cabbage, brinjal, potatoes, butternut and carrots. The produce is pre-packed and marketed to commercial customers .
- Mobilisation and capacitating of other agricultural co-operatives and facilitate their access to sustainable markets that have been developed by Umgibe. Active participation in new agricultural technologies. Currently Umgibe has introduced and rolling out a technology which enables individuals without adequate land space and soil quality to grow vegetables using ordinary grocery bags. This technology has been named Umgibe Climate SMART Programme.
- Conducting experiential commercial agriculture and food security workshops.
- Building and sustaining synergistic and mutual beneficial relationships with other partners. At the moment 34 cooperatives (vegetable production and they own 84 hectares of land).
Umgibe is using two different approaches
- Cooperative approach; - 34 Cooperatives have been formed each with a minimum of 2ha have joined hands with Umgibe network in various areas of KZN. This was setup to ensure adequate supply for our clients while also creating financial benefits for the members of the involved Cooperatives.
- Umgibe farming organic Network approach;- This was born out of dire need from individuals who wanted to be a part of Umgibe Network but who could not meet the criteria because they had no land, or no space at all. Umgibe through this innovative method has been able to reach out to people who would normally be unable to participate in produce supply. Through Umgibe we can create a sustainable community where each individual is able to lead a healthy lifestyle with access to food, water, shelter, education, information, health services and a means to earn a sustainable living using their talents, experience and natural resources.
Full assistance– For a new Umgibe owner, the process of achieving full production and profitability is enhanced by the high back up levels which Umgibe offers its customers. The Umgibe system is almost a franchise, but without the costs associated with franchising; this support includes on site assembly and all produce grown will be guaranteed market and the grower will be able to earn a living in his or her backyard.
Horizontal Boundaries;-Horizontal boundaries identify the quantities and varieties of products and services that our Cooperatives may offer given the right equipment; Vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, butternut etc. In terms of “horizontal” potential, there exists scope for generating more revenue by offering drying, cleaning, bulk handling and packaging services.
Vertical Boundaries;-Vertical boundaries have to do with how far “upstream” or “downstream” a firm’s activities are defined along the value chain.
The premises provide for conducting all the activities between the farm gate and the final consumer of the said products and by-products.
This entails the purchase of physical stock from the farmers and other small-scale assemblers and traders, value-adding it, processing, pre-packing and selling same to end users. Value adding:
It was also intended that as much value will be added as possible, through innovative systems such as home delivery of organic produce; food processing (drying, packing, sauces, etc.); as well as increasing the range of produce, should be looked at to create differentiation so as to reduce competition for certain produce, that resulting in higher prices.
A key and on-going input cost identified was packaging for product presentation, transport and sale. A concern existed that the sale of organic produce in toxic and unsustainable packaging was going to be counter-productive, and as such, the idea of locally produced sustainable packaging, such as that from paper pulp was expected to form part of the process.
The issue of safely re-usable packaging, such as glass bottles were recommended as the key component of the area.
We will implement a number of these initiatives based on the proven Umgibe food production systems and food processing initiatives as per the products we shall be able to produce.
Umgibe organics, value added products (Nutrious famented and pawder vegetables) made by the Umgibe youth network
Umgibe current and future plans;
Currently we are building a community based Eco–Agritourism Centre, a factory that will process all vegetables grown by our members. HACCP compliance, Accreditation by Agriseta. Employment of 30 people by the end of 2017. And also we plan to build the first Umkhumbane Green Restaurent.