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Leeko Mokoena grew up in a village where everyone did subsistence farming: every household had food growing in the backyard, or in communal fields. Everyone took part, and nobody went hungry. But around the year 2000 the older people in the community started to get too old to work, or died. The generation that inherited their land thought that they did not need to farm to get food, or earn a living. The land went fallow. That choice resulted in endemic poverty, unemployment and hunger. This did not make any sense to Leeko hungry people were living on arable land, which they could use free of charge.

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She decided to fix that and started Made with Rural. This empowers small-scale farmers, who are linked to sustainable markets. It also helps farmers with the endless paperwork that comes with their industry. Information is shared through an app Pocket Crop which farmers can use to quickly access new information and check on their sales. Together, the farmers are able to leverage their numbers to buy and sell at better prices.

Mokoena’s most important project is to resuscitate failed government farming initiatives. Using state funds and support from the department of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, she ensures that farmers can obtain tools and seeds to bring life back to fallow fields. This comes just in time for farmers in areas where the climate has already started to change, most felt in lower rainfall each year, and a change in the planting season. The Pocket Crop app allows farmers to get instant updates on this sort of information, so they can plan their crop.

The other side of Made with Rural’s success is more intangible, because it celebrates all things rural. Where rural areas are seen as backward and with little industry, the project seeks to make people feel proud about their skills and where they live.

The success stories are myriad. One farmer made R22 000 in just three weeks from selling her crop. That sort of success makes Mokoena wake up each morning beaming. One project can have a ripple effect across a whole community and she has little time for anything else except starting those ripples.

Source: 200 Young South Africans