The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) development programme Project Koba-Tlala continues to make steady progress in providing locally grown food to military bases, with efforts in Mpumalanga gaining momentum.
Project Koba-Tlala, which translates as chase away hunger, has been going for the past three years under the guidance of Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, director SA Army Reserves. Its origins place the project in line with government’s National Development Plan, which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
The pilot project for Koba-Tlala was in North West where it planned to harness communities in and around the provincial military hub of Potchefstroom. Units and bases would source fresh produce grown by community collective gardens with excess going to local residents.
Several hundred kilometres north-east in Mpumalanga this aspect of Koba-Tlala has, according to its strategy and planning officer Lieutenant Colonel Philip Coetzer, gone a good way toward commercialising military messes.
Evidence is the Army Support Base in provincial capital Mbombela. According to Kamffer the average percentage purchase from local small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) since Koba-Tlala took route has risen to 64. “This is a major step in Mpumalanga and units elsewhere are doing the same,” he said, giving Infantry School in Oudtshoorn as an example.
“Here a 47% purchasing (from SMMEs) figure has been achieved since Koba-Tlala started in April last year. This now ensures local enterprises are part of the national defence force value chain,” Kamffer said.
Forty-five kilometres away in Barberton, headquarters of the General Botha Regiment, Koba-Tlala is providing in terms of upskilling as well as adding to the self-sufficiency of the Reserve Force unit’s messes.
Working under the banner “from home garden to kitchen” unit personnel, led by Staff Sergeant JM Nkosi, ensure fresh produce for kitchens with excess production going to families for own consumption.
“The efforts of the staff sergeant and his team deserve commendation, especially in the current lockdown, because it supports not only Reserve Force soldiers but also their – and other – families,” Coetzer said.