It’s not every day that a kitchen experiment turns into a community-empowering initiative. Leeko Makoene numbed her tongue and survived two ulcers to discover an authentic fiery taste named Chilladido.
With the brand’s co-owner Portia Mmabatho Morudi, she is bent on giving back to the communities they grew up in, with a ‘Made With Rural’ concept showcasing their authentic offerings.
While most of their peers have migrated to urban areas, the duo returned to invest in rural South Africa.
“It doesn’t make sense that rural communities who have rich arable land [at their disposal] still experience abject poverty and huge rates of unemployment,” says Makoene.
Chilladiddo is a food manufacturing company that produces chilli sauces, relishes, honey and other food products. The ingredients are sourced from Makapanstad village, processed in Lanseria, Johannesburg, and then sold at food shows, markets and a few Spars outlets in the city.
To make their business viable, the duo sought a partnership with the PEACE Foundation to set up structures to make the projects sustainable. The foundation provided the necessary skills, resources and know-how in the communities.
The duo’s iLawu Honey project driven by the rural village of Winterveld is a showcase of innovation; the bee-hives are located in citrus farms managed by co-operatives in the area. The hives help with the pollination, and the honey produced is sold at food shows and markets.
This was Morudi’s brainchild, and for this, she was selected an emerging change-maker in South Africa by Spark International and invited by Virgin Unite and the Richard Branson group to speak at an event in London in 2014.
“Year after year, government ploughs money into projects and co-operatives operated in rural areas, only to see them fail and out of business a year later, simply because it is hard for them to crack the retail space, and secure sustainable markets,” offers Makoene.
As an entrepreneur, she found a solution to this issue. They partnered with like-minded small business owners, who are looking to raw materials and other things to keep activity in the rural supply market chain.
Makoene maintains that the youth misunderstand rural development.
“Agriculture is food. The whole chain of taking food from the soil, all the way to the shelf and the plate is what agriculture is about. There is a broad and exciting future in agriculture. African youth can create a legacy for themselves and their communities.”
In June 2015, the pair will host a mentorship walk in rural Makapanstad, where professionals, government officials and business owners will motivate and encourage the youth to pursue their dreams.
Plans are also underway to source funding to convert an inactive school facility in one of the villages into a processing plant for manufacturing Chilladiddo products.
Already awarded grant money from SAB Kickstart and The Hope Factory to help move the business forward, the Chilladiddo duo are set to launch a franchise food outlet and host a big festival to showcase all that Makapanstad has to offer.
“I am more fulfilled and rich doing the work that I do for rural development. I get pure joy on a tractor, than in a Porsche. Life has humbled me, and shown me what it is that matters the most, and from there, I have started receiving material riches,” says Makoene.
The chilli sauces and the fire in their bellies are enough to keep them going.