SOUTH AFRICA – Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) is celebrating five years of dedicatedly supporting emerging entrepreneurs in the South African agriculture sector through its Mintirho Foundation.

The Foundation, established in 2018, has provided support to 26 beneficiaries across the country, creating over 1540 new jobs for rural communities, around 57% of those employed being black women.

Since launching, Mintirho has committed to the development of the agricultural value chain, particularly the support and training of historically disadvantaged farmers or small suppliers of inputs for Appletiser SA and CCBSA, with a view to making these businesses competitive and sustainable.

Its agricultural value chain includes sugar cane, grapes, lemons, oranges, litchis, mangos, peaches, apples, pears and guavas, all of which are consumed in its supply chain as juice or juice concentrate.

Of its 26 beneficiaries, Mintirho has supported three agricultural support service enterprises and through its flexible funding and operational support.

Six beneficiaries have diversified their operations to also focus on producing high-income crops such as macadamia nuts, citrus, and pome fruit.

Amongst the beneficiaries, 10 are women-owned agricultural enterprises who received funding to support a wide range of their growth and expansion initiatives.

“This is a reflection of our primary objective, which is to achieve a developmental impact in growing small and medium sized (SME) black entrants into the agriculture sector, while improving localisation and securing food security.

“We don’t just want to provide funding and walk away, overlooking the reality that some business need the application of best practices to survive, and some support in financial management, which subsequently assist them to manage their loan repayments,” says Goitseone Jonas, CCBSA Mintirho Foundation acting executive manager.

This year, the foundation’s focus is to provide a solid operational framework for its existing operators, many of whom have had to grapple with a host of challenges over the past year.

In KwaZulu, for instance, where a substantial concentration of beneficiaries are located, due to the proximity to the sugar cane industry, a key input into Coca-Cola product, beneficiaries were first affected by the pandemic, then the looting and burning of farms, followed by flooding at the end of 2021.

“So, we will be taking a temporary hold on new funding applications, and focus on delivering the vital post-investment technical and business management support to ensure the sustainability of these businesses and their ability to withstand crisis,” says Jonas.

This fund is held in a trust which supports qualifying beneficiaries with grants, loans, equity and quasi-equity, as well as training and development.

As the Foundation continues to engage with these SMEs, it seeks to ensure that they become self-sustaining, pay off their loans diligently and employ more people as they gain greater scale in their businesses to compete with larger operators, and thus transform the industry.

“With the economy still in a sluggish state, these SMEs remain quite vulnerable,” adds Jonas. “What has made the difference for Mintirho beneficiaries is their tenacity in pushing through the prevailing operating environment.

“This year, we want to deliver a collective response to their challenges, leveraging world-class best practice and standardised processes that produce real results.”

Mintirho has partnered with a third-party provider which visits the various farming operations to conduct assessments, offer training and give advice on better ways of farming.

Beyond the technical skills, the farmers are also coached on softer skills, like managing people and community relationships.

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