Sustainable livelihoods have come to have a more crucial place in the lives of communities in the Eastern Cape recently. As a province which depends on the farming industry more than many other provinces, the Eastern Cape agricultural community has had to find creative ways to protect livelihoods in light of the slump occurring in agricultural sector. Fortunately, creativity is a trait the Eastern Cape is not short of. Tracey Michau, a cattle farmer’s wife from Cradock, is demonstrating this through her resourceful soap-making start-up business.
Tracey’s Boerseep start-up is the product of an old soap-making family recipe which she rediscovered. The recipe uses discarded beef tallow which her farm already has. Tracey’s family recipe is now helping create employment for women in the Cradock community. These women are part of a group which would have endured job losses due to a downsizing agricultural sector.
As of the first quarter of the year, 44 000 agricultural jobs have been lost nationwide. This results in devastating consequences for farming and rural communities which depend on those jobs disproportionately compared to other industries. Agri Eastern Cape president, Doug Stern, has noted the loss to these communities resulting from a decrease in farm employment. Due to a scarcity of industry, job diversity and opportunities, rural communities look mostly to farms for income, even if it is mostly seasonal jobs. The loss of this income further worsens socio-economic issues like alcohol abuse, violence, school drop-outs, extreme poverty and dysfunctional families and communities.
Despite these drawbacks there is a lot of potential in the Eastern Cape, particularly in these rural and farming communities. The landscape of the Eastern Cape is filled with resources – natural, cultural, historical and otherwise. This province has the capacity to support sustainable livelihoods that are unique and able to compete outside of its borders. Tracey has also learned this with her product. Although Boerseep is still in its early stages of being established, Tracey has found that there is a cross-border market for it on online organic stores and farm stalls locally.
Tracey is one of a group of farmer’s wives in this province who are members of Agri Eastern Cape who have found ways to not just give back in the superficial sense, but more importantly, contribute to developing sustainable livelihoods for their communities. Like Tracey, these women are using all types of materials at their disposal on their farms to create permanent jobs for farm workers who might have only had seasonal employment picking fruit or shearing sheep and goats. She is now training a member of the community in the process of production who will in turn train the growing team.