31 March 2023  Five years ago Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) and the Fortress Fund partnered to contribute to improving food security within various South African communities. Since 2021, the partnership has established and supported four farms in Gauteng through FTFA’s Farmer Eco-Enterprise Development (FEED) Africa programme, as well as 21 market gardens. The FEED Africa Programme focuses on commercial agriculture and the supply chain by promoting bio-intensive techniques, training and farmer support.

This ED partnership supports CSI and income generating projects in communities in proximity to properties in the Fortress portfolio. These projects are grouped into eco-clusters for greater impact, and are based in areas that are mostly under-resourced and under-served. This has enabled the partnership to create long-lasting relationships which have the scope to expand and address socio-economic, environmental and sustainability goals.

According to Jodie Ellinor-Dreyer FM at Fortress Real Estate Investments: “South African businesses can adapt their ESG and corporate responsibility to support vulnerable, low-income communities. Fortress has supported 51 greening and gardening projects over the last 5 years and currently partners with FTFA on 4 small-scale farms to safeguard food security in peri-urban areas.”

The Fortress-REIT Farms

While the four FEED Africa farms have been set up to generate income, their social impacts are much broader, extending beyond just the project owners to other community members. For instance, on the 29th of September 2022, Bajha Etsoseng joined 5 other emerging farms for a day-long exchange programme. The farmers engaged in discussions centred around their challenges, solutions, and continued skills development. The programme was extremely successful as new partnerships were formed and very informative discussions were held. Bajha Etsoseng also recently mentored POWA, a women empowerment market garden, to provide experience from a family-headed commercial farm’s perspective.

The support received by these projects has also enabled a more efficient and sustainable use of space. Kula Africa, for example, had only 9000 m2 of the 4 hectares of available land under active production prior to FTFA’s involvement. Since January 2022, fifteen workshops have been conducted and a shade net structure, fence and water tank have been installed at the family-owned farm in President Park. The new resources resulted in the addition of 3000 SqM of intensive high quality vegetable production and multiple harvests throughout 2022.

While the two other FEED Africa farms, Mpitsi Agri and Save Nature Projects, are still fledgeling sites, FTFA hopes that they will follow in the footsteps of Bajha Etsoseng and Kula Africa in the years to come. Already, Mpitsi has focussed on increasing the diversity of their crops. They have been selling their produce through gate sales and at the City Deep Market.

A platform for future generations

A common thread that unites these gardens is the family and community focused grassroots approach that they take to addressing food security. The project members never hesitate to support one another through knowledge and resources sharing. Each farm is run by a close-knit group of people with the goals of growing and providing employment especially for women and people with disabilities, while transferring agricultural skills to children and the youth.

“Our partnership with Fortress gave FTFA the means to build deeper networks in these communities. Many of the projects began as Trees for Homes distributions and grew into market gardens, and then farms, which increased employment and income generation opportunities in these areas,” says Robyn Hills, Programme Manager at Food & Trees for Africa.

In the years to come, FTFA and Fortress envision that these farms will continue to grow, providing opportunities for the next generation of farmers, and that they will operate at a full, sustainable capacity to empower a wider community to learn to grow their own food.

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Annexure “A”

About the Fortress REIT & FTFA Partnership

Fortress REIT is the largest owner and developer of premium-grade logistics real estate in South Africa, and the owner of many shopping centres and warehouses that were key to providing essential services during the initial Covid-19 lockdown period. Through FTFA, the company fervently continues to implement solutions uplifting vulnerable local communities from persistent socio-economic inequalities. This is achieved by rolling out several food security, environmental sustainability and greening programmes in “eco-clusters” across schools and communities in close proximity to their properties.

For more Press Release please visit the following link and Comment: Bata South Africa’s international team invests in local community – NGOConnectSA

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