A farmer in the tiny village of Nwanedi, South Africa, Mercy Sithagu once struggled to tend her small plot, less than three acres in total. Yet today, she is a successful entrepreneur and community leader. What made the difference? Forevermark, as part of The De Beers Group of Companies, helps provide enterprise-funding initiatives, such as the Zimele Fund, based in South Africa. With the assistance of Zimele (named after the Zulu word meaning “people stand on their own feet”), Mercy was able to learn skills and acquire the tools she needed to grow her farm, and become the prosperous businesswoman she is today.
Making an Impact In addition to Forevermark’s commitment to integrity, which guarantees that each and every Forevermark diamond is conflict free, untreated and completely natural, the company, as part of The De Beers Group of Companies, supports the communities from which their diamonds originate through local education, healthcare and professional training programs. The Zimele Enterprise Development Program is just one of these programs. In 2014, The De Beers Group of Companies invested in over 62 small businesses, to create more than 1,175 jobs in South Africa.
Support for Women For communities to thrive, Forevermark believes they need the full and equal participation of women, and that women have the right to participate fully and equally. Mercy Sithagu’s farm is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with the right training, investment and support.
In the Limpopo province, Mercy grows tomatoes, butternut squash, beans and watermelon. The Zimele Enterprise Program provided her with a loan and a business mentor—both of which completely transformed her farm and the role it plays in her community.
Loans Boost Land and Productivity The loan money allowed Mercy to invest in essential tools for the farm. She was able to secure fertilizers, pesticide and seedling—important items for ensuring the success of crops. Mercy was also able to invest in a tractor and irrigation system. The tractor helped boost productivity levels of her farm and other farms in the area.
In a short time, Mercy’s farmland expanded to almost 85 acres. More land meant she needed more help, creating more jobs. Originally only providing work for two, the farm grew to 10 employees—with as many as 20 needed during peak farming season.
Mentors Provide the Tools for Success Though Mercy is unable to read or write, her Zimele mentor helped her become more proficient in business. She learned people management skills, negotiation tactics, pricing strategy, bookkeeping and cash flow management. These are crucial competencies for a successful businessperson, and through the Zimele Enterprise Program, Mercy—and others—see great benefits from developing these skills.
“Zimele empowered me as a woman,” explains Mercy, who has become an inspiration to others in her village. From her, they learned farming skills, gained confidence and improved their prospects. Mercy’s knowledge is invaluable, and it will only grow from here. In the future, she hopes to expand and package her vegetables for supermarkets.
Through local programs like the Zimele Enterprise Development Program, The De Beers Group of Companies and Forevermark are making a difference in the lives of men, women and children.
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