Our vision and mission is that:

Poor rural people sustainably optimise their assets and income through improving the productivity and efficiency of how they use resources they have available, be it their own labour, skills and time or capital assets like land and livestock.
We do this by meeting real needs in a way that builds their capacity, trust and pride


Although our track record and services extend beyond our shores we are a South African organisation.

Mngcunube has been in existence since the 1980s when we started to engage in community projects on a voluntary basis under the auspices of current CEO Lyle Kew. Lyle then left commercial farming and worked on large scale irrigation projects at Ncora in the Eastern Cape and then joined EDA which was then a very well-known South African NGO born in the ‘struggle years’ where he served as Manager and set up major livestock village water, community trust retail business and wool/shearing operations.. There he linked with Jack Blaker who was then the CEO of EDA and who is now Mngcunube’s M&E specialist and Company Secretary. Lyle then became Manager of the Free state Land Reform Pilot project and then later went independent at which stage he and Jack Blaker started a long term collaboration as Mngcunube Development.

Our staff complement in recent times has varied between 25 and 80 and we are able to access and deploy additional personnel at short notice. We are a registered Non Profit Company with offices in the Eastern Cape at Elliot and Kokstad and in the Free State at Bloemfontein. We have the normal office, administrative and financial systems.


We believe that our track record shows we have made a huge difference in the lives of poor rural people in a sustainable way and we hope that with the evidence available on our website we show that this is a belief rooted in proven results. There is no magic formula to our success. Here are some of the basics that have enabled us to achieve what we have achieved:

  • Our design of interventions for sustainable success is built on experience and testing on the ground. Only once we are confident in what is needed and what will really work do we set up principles, policies, systems and procedures. These cover technical, societal, and organisational levels and we stick closely to them through how we operate, monitor and manage.
  • We train tens of thousands of people: all of this on the ground and through mentors who work on the ground with people where they live. Our above-mentioned policies and procedures ensure that our mentors are really mentors and not just teachers. (We led the process that developed a national policy for farmer mentoring)
  • Knowing what makes a big difference to rural people through knowing them and not form the media, knowing what we are really good at and sticking to that: we aspire to be great at what we do and not through being great in size
  • Assiduously recording and collecting information and data and using this: we adhere to the principle that says ‘if you can’t measure you can’t manage’


Small Business Development through Livestock
on Communally Owned Lands

These are large scale programmes running for at least three or more years.

  • A programme from 1992 to 1998 in the Herschel District, now part of the Senqu Municipality of the Eastern Cape. Highlights were the livestock, wool marketing and water components and support of the Herschel Farmers Consolidated Union. This was done through a EDA Trust, an NGO.
  • A livestock programme from 2002 to 2005 in the Mafeteng district of Lesotho that linked over 2 000 farmers with private sector wool marketing services and improved animal health.
  • A livestock programme, 2004 to 2009, in the Elundini Municipality of the Eastern Cape, which handled over a million small stock. An independent external evaluator (Dr A Jordaan) in 2006 reported that: “This development project amongst communal farmers is the most successful I have been exposed to in the past ten years. The procedures used are a valuable example of how development in these communities should be implemented and it is recommended that …. the programme continues and is expanded to as many regions in the RSA as possible.” The project had 3228 registered farmers and of these 2459 owned sheep (and, usually, other animals). The total sheep owned by these farmers was 425 272 including lambs. The project had the following effect on average numbers of sheep per farmer: the number of ewes increased by 100% from 15 to 30; the number of wethers increased from 6 to 10 and the number of lambs from 10 to 20. This arises from improved birth and death rates due to medicines but also to better animal husbandry. The study shows that the net effect of this is that potential annual gross income went from R 416 per average participating farmer to R 18 036 at the market price for sheep at that time. The average cost per farmer to achieve this gain was R 735. When multiplied across 3 228 owners this represents a benefit (not even including from goats and cattle) of over R 56 million each and every year. In all Mngcunube projects the results are sustained by ensuring the local capacity is built to take over what the project does.
  • Large scale livestock project in Alfred Nzo District (January 2007-present) that is essentially similar to the abovementioned Elundini project
  • Large scale livestock and homestead garden projects across the entire Chris Hani District (2009-present ) very similar to the Elundini project mentioned above but which includes homestead gardens
  • A livestock-entrepreneur project in the Nyandeni Local Municipality (2010-2013) based on the same principles as the other livestock projects but with livestock marketing included. This included development of a feedlot and a local Co-op but the project is on hold pending longer term funding decisions by Anglo American
  • A wool and mohair project in the Lesotho Highlands, in partnership with the private sector, that from mid-2004 to early 2007 worked with over 3000 farmer and made a dramatic change in the quality and quantity of wool produced and flowing through private shearing sheds and similarly big gains from improved animal health.
  • A smaller livestock project in the Ntabankulu Municipality of the Eastern Cape (2005-2007) that is very similar to that at Elundini but with even higher numbers of stock being handled per capita.
  • A livestock project in Mbashe LM from 2008 – 2011

Homestead Gardens, Livelihoods, HIV/Aids, Gender

By using a few easily leaned techniques a homestead garden can produce sufficient vegetables for a household most or all of the year. This is significant at several levels: being in the homestead environment the garden is most often under the control of women so work can be fitted in with other household activities and family nutrition can be given priority. Given current high levels of HIV and TB, better nutrition is especially important to affected households; improved nutrition is also very important to infants and school children. Some households make meaningful money from selling vegetables and seedlings so there can be an SMME element. With appropriate gardening techniques and systems like keyhole gardens very good yields can be obtained from very small a garden which makes them well suited to the elderly and the unwell.

Mngcunube built on the keyhole garden concept of Sendacow (Lesotho) and has launched its now widespread popularity, initially by guiding the building of over 5 500 keyhole gardens in Lesotho in 2005 and since then in Zambia and the Eastern Cape and Lesotho where over 20 000 were built under CWP.

Examples of these projects include:

  • An urban agriculture project in 2002/3 for the Gauteng Agriculture Department in Diepsloot, Ebony Park and Kaalfontein: this covered community gardens, homestead gardens and homestead poultry production
  • A project in the Mafeteng district of Lesotho from 2002 to 2005 that covered over 600 households. This was accompanied by a project that tested and developed good practices in gardening and which contributed to the very popular homestead gardening manual produced by CARE Lesotho.
  • An innovative ‘development with relief’ programme in four districts of Lesotho, of which Mngcunube was a part in its initial stages in 2004/5. It successfully trained over 5 000 households in homestead gardening including the now popular ‘keyhole garden’ technique.
  • From mid-2005- 2009, a homestead gardens project covering over 700 households of Ward 7 and surrounding areas in the Elundini Municipality. Ward 7 is very badly affected by stock theft so food from gardens was an especially important factor
  • In Alfred Nzo District, a programme similar to that in Elundini covering over 500 households from 2008 – 2011
  • In 2003 Mngcunube provided implementation and mentoring services on behalf of CARE Lesotho for village gardens and nurseries that had been displaced by the Katse dam.

Community Works Project (as part of a national initiative)

We began working on CWP in the Eastern Cape in 2009 and continued to do so until early 2013 when we were replaced by PIAs. We covered 7000 participants at the following sites: Sikhulile (2000); Thusong (1000); Lukhanyo (1000); Siyazenzela (1000); Mhlontlo (1000) and Manyano (1000). When we converted to becoming a Non Profit from a Close Corporation we suffered delays in getting a Tax Clearance Certificate for the NPO so lost this work from early 2013.

From 2012 we began operating sites in the Free State as well: this started in Naledi District with participants (at first called Mantshatlala) and then in Mohokare and Letsemeng Districts with participants each. These were built up over time so that by mid-2013 they reached 3500 participants.

Some highlights of what we have contributed to over this period in Free State are:

  • Participants are paid regularly at month end due to attendance registers submitted on time and in correct form.
  • Food security is a priority and has been given a massive boost by building, panting and maintaining over 20 000 food gardens (homestead and communal) at schools, crèches and community gardens.
  • Delivered training, accredited and non-accredited, to participants in HBC, ECD, knitting, embroidering, canning of vegetables, welding, tiling, building (assisted in the building of 2 crèches in Naledi ), brick making, game fencing and school support.
  • Mngcunube always look for opportunities to promote participants from worker to supervisor and from supervisor to facilitator.
  • Operating standards are achieved through having extremely well trained staff.

Water Development and Management

Mngcunube has developed low cost water schemes at large scale for rural villages as well as restoring existing windmill, borehole and hand pump systems at large scale. Mngcunube also has skills in creating soil and donga reclamation works and in organising this on a community based public works basis.

Examples include:

  • Water development for 30 villages in the then Herschel district (now Senqu) of the Eastern Cape, reaching over 3 000 households. Gravity led systems in some cases delivered water from several kilometres away.
  • Training and equipping community based workers as small businesses in water development and windmill repair – as above.
  • Capping springs for village water and for village nurseries in the Katse dam area of Lesotho
  • In the Mafeteng district of Lesotho, from 2003 – mid 2007, restoring at large scale existing borehole and hand pump systems. This has covered over 900 water points across 175 villages and reached over 36 000 households and an estimated 217 000 individual beneficiaries. Clean water has been restored to these households at an average cost of R 96 per household

Consulting Work

Mngcunube has carried out a wide range of short term and long term consultancy services, advisory and policy functions. The following is a limited example:

  • For SALGA in the Free Sate, assess local and district municipality needs for commonage by laws and support their design
  • Assess agricultural projects of the National Department of Agriculture and Umsobomvu, for EPA
  • Investigation of and a proposal for collaboration in a community based rural tourism project in the Eastern Cape (GEM Trust)
  • Short review of the Magopa Trust farm operations and potential (SA Council of Churches)
  • Scope and design of private sector based food security projects in Lesotho for the Priority Support Programme
  • Programme Adviser for the Livelihoods Recovery Through Agriculture Programme of CARE Lesotho and the Lesotho Ministry of Agriculture
  • Project management adviser for agricultural development projects in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique
  • Train World Vision, CARE, and CRS in Zambia on keyhole garden technology
  • For the EU Thina Sinako Fund, lead a process for Co-operatives Improvement in the then Ukhahlamba District
  • A review of the Umzimvubu Goats Co-op in Mt Ayliff (Alfred Nzo)
  • For the EU Thina Sinako Fund, assess the potential for a peach process Co-op facility in the Sterkspruit area


Land Reform Implementation

This involves all work leading up to transfer of land such as deed scans, formation of ownership structures such as joint ventures, establishment of commonage systems, organisational development and business plan development.

Mngcunube has carried out these functions as follows:

  • Free State Land Reform Pilot: 168 transfers
  • Free State: 140 transfers
  • Northern Cape: 35 transfers
  • North West: 41 transfers

Land Reform Post Settlement Support

Mngcunube developed a mentorship system for new and emerging farmers and applied this through a major support programme covering over 40 emergent farmers and groups on their own land and on commonage land in the northern Free State. This was the subject of a feature on the documentary TV programme ‘Special Assignment’ and was published in the newsletter of Agren, the international extension journal.

Commonage Development

Commonage in rural areas is often the only potential resource for the poor, who should be given priority for its use. Productive use of the commonage extends benefits beyond direct returns to users. It adds to the local economy, develops skills and knowledge, promotes a sense purpose and self-esteem among users who are unemployed, and can serve as a stepping stone for those aspiring to get land through land reform financing. Mngcunube has a tried and tested approach that builds successful and responsible use of commonage. In essence user groups form an association that rents the land from the Municipality.

Mngcunube has carried out commonage development projects in the Free State and the Ukhahlamba District of the Eastern Cape at the following localities.

Free State:

Naledi Local Municipality (Dewetsdorp, Wepener, Vanstadensrus (current)

Eastern Cape:

Ukhahlamba: Jamestown and Aliwal North (Maletswai), Barkly East (Senqu), Venterstad and Burgersdorp (Gariep) and Ugie (Elundini) in 2004/5


Farmer-led development and mentoring

Department of Agriculture and Land Reform

ComMark Lesotho wool marketing and mentoring project

2000 review of Free State mentorship project

Elundini Data Base Study Final Report