Chances are, when you put a pack of Woolworths tomatoes in your shopping trolley, you don’t think anything of it. After all, with Woolies focus on consistent quality, one tomato is pretty much the same as every other. In terms of quality, appearance, freshness, flavour, etc., they’re as alike as peas in a pod. It’s only when you find out where some of them come from that you realise they’re not merely tomatoes; they’re a road taking a group of previously disadvantaged farmers from Trichardsdal in Limpopo towards an economically sound future. And it’s all down to their hard work and support from Woolworths Enterprise Development programme, including technical advice from an established Woolies tomato supplier in the area, business management advice from another Woolies partner, and loans amounting to R2 million from Woolies. That R2 million is just a small part of the R40 million Woolworths has made provision for, for Enterprise Development. Trichardsdal, situated between Hoedspruit and Tzaneen, is an area with a high unemployment rate and there are not many opportunities for employment. So it was in 2010 that the Trichardsdal tomato farmers started this project. Enterprise Development partner TechnoServe realised its potential and were put in touch with Woolworths by Qutom, who were already supplying tomatoes to us. With a start-up loan from Woolworths and support from TechnoServe and Qutom, the project began in earnest. However, they suffered a major blow when they lost their first crop to hail damage. Woolworths came to the rescue with an additional cash injection to help tide them over. This year’s crop is looking good, and they hope to deliver some 600 tons of tomatoes – including, among other varieties, cherry and rosa tomatoes – to Woolies this year. Their eventual goal is to deliver two and a half times that amount – some 1500 tons of great tasting, top quality tomatoes – which will find their way to Woolworths stores around the country. Today, with a support team of seven experts from TechnoServe and Qutom, the Trichardsdal tomato farmers are not only supplying Woolworths with tomatoes, they’re also learning valuable business and technical skills. The project currently provides employment for some 80 people – most of them women – and supports about 400 people in total. In addition to growing their own business, they also hope to be able to pass on the skills they’ve learned to other farmers in the area, helping improve the economic prospects and create a sustainable future for their community. ENDS NOTES FOR EDITORS WOOLWORTHS AND ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT In the main, the Woolworths Enterprise Development (ED) programme has been designed to support emerging black-owned organisations in the Woolworths greater supply chain, including primary and secondary suppliers. Through this strategy, Woolworths assists emerging black-owned suppliers to become truly sustainable businesses through a balanced enterprise development programme implemented based on individual needs analysis approach. This would typically be: • ensuring the ED beneficiary is on shorter payment terms to assist in cash flow, • identifying development needs and assisting in ensuring that there is a programme of interventions to address those needs, • making finance available through the ED loan fund. The ED support is afforded to black enterprises for 3 – 5 years period, after which it should be demonstrated that the enterprise has reached a certain level of sustainability. Woolworths has intensified enterprise development support to 40 businesses, which are receiving business development support and financial assistance. Woolworths has disbursed R 9.4 million in loans, and also business opportunities worth RXXX million from Woolworths were accessed by these small enterprises. Over 5 000 people are either employed or supported by the employees of these small enterprises.