ABBA Initiatives, a subsidiary of investment holding company AFGRI Group Holdings, said it would provide training and skills development. File photo: Reuters.

JOHANNESBURG - ABBA Initiatives, a subsidiary of investment holding company AFGRI Group Holdings, said on Monday it would provide training and skills development to 25 youths in Tembisa, focusing initially on open field farming, aquaponics and hydroponics, with the ultimate goal of developing a sustainable urban agricultural solution for South Africa.

ABBA Initiatives has developed a unique farming programme that relies on father figures in communities to establish sustainable agrarian projects across Africa. 

Along with an existing aquaponics container and tunnel, as well as a hydroponics container, the Tembisa project includes a 1,000 square metre vegetable garden used for training purposes.

“With steadily declining employment rates, we need to offer our urban communities alternatives, particularly our youth," ABBA managing director Vaughan McTaggart said.

"We know that agriculture is not always the most obvious choice, but with the 25 graduates working as community ‘influencers’, as well as by actively involving Tembisa households in the programme, word is spreading to the community about the many benefits involved in urban farming and agriculture more generally."

The influencers are currently completing a one-year agricultural training programme, which includes a course in plant production which will also be offered to 50 households per month, with these households being mentored by the influencers.

This should allow these individuals to get a job on a farm or to continue with a more advanced agricultural qualification.

“Realising the only way to create a step-change is by getting the community involved – essentially building a model that is ‘for Tembisa, by Tembisa’ – we invited the households to receive training alongside the ‘influencers’," McTaggart said. 

"We hope to reach 550 households this year alone through this phase of the project.”

He said the project would further inspire entrepreneurship in the community, with any extra produce being made available for sale, adding that the project's success would be measured on how much it was commercially viable and a sustainable model for the rest of South Africa.

“We need to encourage not only a passion for agriculture, but a focus on entrepreneurship and ultimately, food security, the latter through the produce grown and by creating a demand in townships for alternative proteins such as fish through the aquaponics element," said McTaggart.

"We are never afraid to dream big, and in this case the acceptance, enthusiasm and the keen interest to learn has surpassed all our expectations.”

- African News Agency (ANA)