R10m grant for co-operatives

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has demonstrated its commitment towards supporting co-operatives by setting aside R10-million grant finance for youth-owned co-operatives across the country, particularly those in rural areas.

The Mabhida Youth Co-operatives Grant Fund will be complemented by non-financial business support services that include training, mentorship and market linkages. The application process will officially open on August 1 2013.

Recognised world-wide for alleviating poverty and unemployment, particularly in rural areas, a co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic and social needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

Co-operative principles include voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, autonomy and concern for community.

This year International Co-operatives Month is being celebrated under the theme “Co-operative enterprises remain strong in times of crisis”.

The theme links to the global economic crisis and how co-operatives have proved to be resilient to the effects of the crisis compared to other forms of enterprises.

According to NYDA executive chairperson Yershen Pillay, the NYDA will use Co-operatives Month to provide information, training and support for youth-owned co-operatives.

“We will intensify our support for youth-owned co-operatives working together with other state entities and the private sector.

“Co-operatives provide a vehicle for reorganising our economy and their contribution to socioeconomic development is invaluable. We can do so much for poverty alleviation, job creation and social integration if we focus on growing our co-operatives economy and encouraging more young South Africans to establish co-operatives,” Pillay indicates.

Pillay adds that as part of the NYDA’s plans to support co-operatives, a memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Limpopo department of agriculture.

“The co-operation is based on the need to introduce youth into agricultural production in order to empower them economically, stimulate local economic growth and contribute towards job creation using cooperatives as their main vehicle,” he says.

Co-operatives are the main focus of the agreement because the co-operative model can generate sustainable employment in massive scales and promotes the utilisation of local resources.

With this agreement, the NYDA and the department will jointly identify Limpopo-based young aspiring and established cooperatives between the ages of 18 and 35 years who require the grant for business start-up or growth.

Limpopo Agriculture MEC Jacob Marule said: “The signing of the memorandum could not have come at a better time than now as it is also important to draw young people into farming and retain those who are already in the business.

“I believe that the memorandum that has been concluded will later be translated into a project co-operation agreement that will go a long way in capacitating young farmers to participate in the mainstream of our economy.

“This partnership will help to stimulate a positive environment for organised agriculture and agribusiness through co-operatives in the Limpopo.”

The MEC further emphasised that rural economic development and infrastructure are also key to attracting and retaining young people in the farming business.

“Rural communities and small businesses that support the agricultural sector require additional investment, including expansion of physical and technological infrastructure,” he says.

Supporting co-operatives is nothing new for the NYDA, since inception the NYDA has provided funding to the value of R9 095 599 to young co-operatives. Beneficiaries include:
• DMT Agricultural Services Co-operative based in Umzimkhulu in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
The young entrepreneurs grow plants such as tea tree and lemon grass for essential oils and also grow vegetables such as maize, cabbage, spinach, green pepper, potatoes and butternut.
• Lesedi Manufacturing Primary Co-operative in Alexandra which recycles glass, paper, aluminium and plastic.
• Zondi Buy Back Centre Co-operative in Soweto which also recycles glass, paper, aluminium and plastic.
• Sgezamadolobha Co-operative which cleans (taxi ranks and streets) and recycles glass, paper, aluminium and plastic; and
• Konk’okuhle Co-operative which is in the trucking business. In addition, the NYDA has also provided non-financial business support services to 138 co-operatives across all nine provinces.

“Co-operatives can be used as vehicle for income generation and collective action,” Pillay concludes.

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