A Story of Growth, Prosperity and Vegetables.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day... well, you know how that one goes.
Things work a little differently when you give a woman in Khayelitsha a couple of seeds; you don't just feed her (and her extended family) for a lifetime, you build a society that feeds itself.
Abalimi Bezekhaya is a Xhosa expression meaning "Farmers of the Home" and the name of the organization that was originally established in 1982 and has since facilitated over 6500 farmers on the Cape Flats.
It is an organisation that has a vision of township neighbourhoods that is also a vision of plenty in which micro-farmers are able to enjoy bountiful harvests of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Plots of land that provide crops such as spinach, berries, carrots, celery, tomatoes and many others are a reality in places like Khayelitsha thanks to Cape Town's best kept secret: Abalimi Bezekhaya.
Not only does Abalimi supply food that is organically grown and nutritionally rich but their "Harvest of Hope" initiative, started in 2008, guarantees the Abalimi farmers a market for their produce and therefore a reliable source of income.
Harvest of Hope has since assisted the farmers wanting to sell their surplus with an additional income of R2.7 million rands. From a modest start of R23,000 in year one to an average in excess of R550,000 per year over the last three years.
Over the last six months Abalimi has joined forces with Hex in order to help them develop a secure digital infra-structure for the organisation.
Hex is a cloud-based "enterprise" system for small to medium-sized businesses that was formed in recent years in partnership with UCT's Information Systems department and Activist, a local NGO promoting food security and other topics.
The software specifically deals with the problem of lack of communication within businesses caused by the fragmentation of software systems - the rule nowadays rather than the exception.
Hex provides one single system capable of managing the all-to-often disparate areas such as website design and content management, accounts and billing, customer (or rather, "stakeholder") database, products, projects... (a bit more about this later).
These months of partnership have involved the set-up of Abalimi's database of stakeholders, designed a new website with content management system, online ordering and payment gateway - as well as the education of Abalimi farmers and employees in all things computational - ranging from basic computer literacy to using the web and mobile app based Hex system.
Ultimately, Abalimi will use the Hex system to replicate their proven model to assist micro-farmers in other parts of Southern Africa.
The technological growth of the Abalimi is something that makes it possible to map what happens on every level and possibly to expand the project further, creating a blueprint for instances where others could benefit.
Hex has taken the #Knowyourfarmer mantra to heart and is using digitisation to create more tangible links between the diversity of people affiliated with Abalimi.
Volunteers, designers, farmers, software developers, donors, customers and so many more (all considered "stakeholders") all come together with Abalimi as a nexus for their interactions.
Consumers feel that it is increasingly important that they are choosing ethical products to support. There is a worry that someone along the often obscure commodity trajectories is being exploited, underpaid or abused. The best way to ensure that this is not the case is knowledge. This is why the #Knowyourfarmer initiative helps put a face to the delicious fresh produce and put Harvest of Hope consumers at ease.
Above and beyond the "on the ground" support (pun intended) that Abalimi provides and the Hex injection of Tech-savy, it is important in the golden age of information technology for us to work towards closing the "digital divide".
It is my hope that this ongoing series of articles will illuminate the processes and triumphs of the farmers such as Manelisi Mapukata and give a voice to some of the extraordinary people affiliated with Abalimi.
The story begins with Hex consultant Muchenja.