May 2021.

Youth-owned Mopi Fresh Produce, based in the Bochum area of Limpopo, is one of eight beneficiaries receiving developmental support through a collaborative youth development programme.

This fledgling farming enterprise produces spinach, beetroot, green pepper and tomato crops, which are being sold to various stores and markets as well as local schools in the Bochum area. With the recent programme intervention that includes business support, equipment, seedlings, fertilizers and other assistance, business owner Mapula Rapholo, has plans to expand her supply chain within Bochum and hopefully further afield to Polokwane and the surrounding areas. This will allow her to at least double the young people that Mopi Fresh Produce employs. Mapula believes that this can directly benefit her local community, which has high levels of youth unemployment that has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Mapula Rapholo, is dedicated and passionate about her business and steadfast in her commitment to growing her business, saying, “I don’t believe in impossibilities, as long as there is dedication and passion about what you are doing there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Farming is not a simple environment – it comes with different challenges that are out of our hands, so I need to be physically and emotionally prepared to deal with whatever nature throws my way.”

As part of Soutpan Solar Power’s Enterprise Development programme eight local youth businesses were identified during 2020 to receive ongoing business development support. This support will take the form of skills training; funding of material and equipment; compliance and registrations; as well as business mentorship. The view is to adopt a holistic approach to development which entails the deployment of funding, business mentorship, building of institutional capacity and possible market access where necessary.

“High levels of unemployed youth require a formalised approach that includes both immediate and ongoing support, if we are going to be able to see a sustainable difference,” explained Harrisinah Theka, Economic Development Officer for Soutpan Solar Power.

This collaborative developmental programme is also supported by Blouberg Local Municipality, NYDA, SEDA, the Department of Agriculture, Venetia Mine and the Department of Rural Development.

According to Statistics SA there is a 39.2% level of unemployment and a 47.2% level of youth unemployment in the Limpopo area. These numbers made us realise that there is much that we, as Soutpan Solar Power, need to do to formalise and develop youth owned enterprises. The project is aimed at identifying the enterprises and supporting them to grow and expand with whatever support they might require, be it training, material and equipment support, compliance, or mentoring.