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Backyard Farms is spicing up female empowerment by encouraging sustainable farming with a purpose.

By: Cebelihle Mthethwa

Born from the idea, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”, founders Dom Johnson- Allen, Anna Lusty and Leila Blom are empowering women to sustain themselves through farming. Backyard Farms is an initiative that came from the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Having set up and run a feeding scheme at The Pebbles Kitchen during the Covid-19 lockdown period, Dom then started a new social enterprise combining micro-farming and food production with some of the female beneficiaries from the scheme.

According to Leila, Backyard Farms started with a group of ten women that had a passion for farming and small gardens. Backyard Farms would sponsor the compost, fertilizer, seedlings and training to grow chillies and then buy the harvests for the production of their new sauce range called “Backyard Farms”.

“With the love we have for our country and our people, we wanted to help women from the townships and communities of the Western Cape, to sustain themselves by using their passion. We wanted to combine our respective skills, experiences and resources to create an organisation that can grow and improve the lives of everyone involved.” Leila says.

She adds that her passion for social entrepreneurship began when she visited the Eastern Cape and was amazed by how beautiful the province was, but in contrast, the people were underprivileged and had no way of sustaining themselves. “Helping a person once off is good but giving them a lifelong opportunity is even better”.

Backyard Farms is currently working with women in Bellville, Helderberg, Stellenbosch, Gugulethu, Khayamandi and Languedoc.

With Dom’s corporate and entrepreneurial background in the hospitality sector, Anna’s fabulous photography and Leila’s skills as a food technologist, they have been able to create a wonderful new brand selling sauces online, through delis and into national retailers. The more sauce they sell, the more women they can support.

While brand familiarity is a challenge for all new businesses,  Backyard Farms is determined to keep growing and selling as much sauce as they can. The more sauce they sell, the more produce they buy- growing the network of little farms that they can support.

“Our goal is to become South Africa’s leading ‘route-to-market’ for small-scale female farmers. That is why we plan to expand into other areas of the Western Cape and new provinces. We’re not stopping with just chillies – we have already started with fresh herbs and other veggies that will increase the earning power for our partners and help us grow the range of our sauces.” says Leila.

Sharing her knowledge with other entrepreneurs who want to start a business one day, Leila says: “Entrepreneurs should ensure that their business idea solves a particular challenge that society faces, in that way, you create a demand for your product or services”.

Things to do this month:
Plant/Grow something
Movie to watch this month: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Book to read this month: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho