Communal sugar farm ‘sets an example’

The revival of 165ha of sugar cane by the Mansomini Irrigation Project in KwaZulu-Natal’s Glendale Valley was praised by Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) minister Gugile Nkwinti during a recent tour organised by the SA Sugar Association (SASA).

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“KZN keeps on surprising me. I am so happy to see what is happening with communal land. It is unbelievable,” said Nkwinti.  The recapitalisation project, a joint initiative between the community, Gledhow Mill and SASA, with funding assistance from government, has been undertaken by 75 growers, of which 65% are women. Under the leadership of Victoria Khuzwayo (70) and Siyabonga Madlala, the co-op received a R3,5 million loan from the Micro Agricultural Finance Institute of SA (Mafisa).

A further R1,8 million grant was received from the DRDLR for resuscitation of irrigation equipment and fencing. The first harvest from the revitalised Mansomini project is under way and expansion plans are already being discussed.Nkwinti said once the co-op has developed a business plan in terms of the Recapitalisation and Development Programme (Recap), his department would fund 100% of the plan.

Setting an example
Nkwinti said he wanted to see government and strategic partners playing a diminishing role in Recap farms over the years, to the point where farmers take full control of their production units. He also said the sugar industry’s recapitalisation of farms is setting an example of what the communal land tenure system can achieve through integrating “modern, democratic systems with traditional systems of government.”

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SASA chairperson Bongani Linda said the sugar industry is implementing 147 Recap projects in KZN and Mpumalanga.
“While this programme is only in its second year of implementation, we’re beginning to see results,” said Linda. Some 6 551ha has been recapitalised and 649 permanent and 1 938 seasonal jobs have been created, while R21 million has been spent on infrastructure and equipment.

Linda said that in implementing government’s Recap programme, the sugar industry is unique in that 100% of funding reaches the grower – there is no ‘management fee’. The industry has assembled a team of experts to support land reform farms. However, Linda said the timeous transfer of government funds continues to be a problem in agriculture.

Own resources
SASA land reform manager Anwah Madhapall said an unintended consequence of the land reform programme is the business management challenges it gives rise to. To support communal land-holding entities, SASA has used R12 million of its own resources, together with R3,4 million from Agri-Seta, to develop a three-year good governance management support programme. This programme is assisting farmers in 29 projects across Mpumalanga and KZN.