By: Tebogo Mokwena
Maize farmers in the North West have been exploited by their commercial counterparts for years, and this is why Onkabetse Mokgweetsi and his cousin, Tshepiso Jantjies, decided to team up. They founded Kgora Brands in 2020 and began trading in 2021. The food brand helps North West farmers access markets. Mokwgeetsi is a qualified agriculturalist and his love for agriculture stems from being able to provide communities with a final product as well as make markets accessible for struggling small-scale farmers.
Mokgweetsi was born and raised in Taung in the North West, where the business and the farmers they work with are based. Mokgweetsi and his cousin were dismayed by the stories of exploitation from the local farmers. “I discovered that farmers leased their farms to large-scale farming enterprises, but were paid much less than the value of their yields after the harvest period ended,” he said.
“It was very painful to see this happen because a lot of these farmers depend on their crops to feed their families,” Mokgweetsi said that they started leasing land from the farmers, and ensured that the profits were split evenly at the end of the harvest period. They also obtained a 10-hectare farm of their own, where they grow maize. Their products come in 10kg and 25kg bags and are distributed to 63 different township retailers in the North West, Gauteng and the Northern Cape.
They work with nine farmers in the Taung area. Mokgweetsi said that there were many benefits for the farmers. “We are very transparent about how much we make from their yields and provide paperwork of our transactions,” he said. “A lot of farmers approach us with the desire to work with us because of how we have improved the lives of other farmers, but because of a lack of funding to expand our operations, this has proven to be a challenge.”
But money has not been their concern. “When we started out we found out that printers would charge R3.50 per bag, and they would not print anything less than 30,000 bags, so we had to pay over R100,000 in order to print bags, and we did not have this money,” Mokgweetsi said. “Luckily, our municipality assisted us in this regard and we were able to pay.
“We also had issues with transporting our products when the demand went high, but now we are able to deliver because we have acquired our own transportation,” Mokgweetsi said that being able to distribute their maize meal in 63 stores in three provinces was a great achievement and their aim was to supply more stores. “We also want to create a value chain where more farmers in the North West can be free from being exploited by other corporations, and be able to truly reap the fruits of their lands,” he said.