Wuduza farm workers grow into farmers
Tabita Ngqunge & Thomas Thale
Photo caption: Wuduza farm produces high-quality oranges mainly for the export market.
When the Ulimocor Parastatal of the former Ciskei government was liquidated in 1997, the future looked bleak for the Battlesden Farm and its employees.
But the Department of Agriculture, the then Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) came to the rescue. They helped with transfer of the land to former employees, enabling them to resuscitate the orange orchards.
Overnight, the small group who were working the orchards had security of tenure on the land situated in the Amathole district of the Eastern Cape. They set to work ¬– only this time, it was for their own direct benefit.
The landscape changed from overgrown stretches of grass to a shiny green and yellow, as trees began yielding high-quality oranges, mainly for the export market.
The 25 hectare piece of land was identified
and a long lease was concluded with the Community Property Association (CPA). The farm was now theirs to develop as a business, which became known as Wuduza.
One of the beneficiaries, Bonakele Katyana from KwasiKhutshwana village in the Eastern Cape, recalls how it all started. “The eight of us applied to the Department of Land Affairs for the land. We then agreed to pool our pension payout from the farm to buy diesel and fertilisers to keep the farm going.”
The Amathole District Municipality bought a tractor, built a shed and fenced the fields for the budding farmers. In 2006, the Riverside Advisory Services came on board, offering technical, administrative, financial and mentorship support.
Colin Painter, Managing Director of River- side, says Wuduza is one of 19 farms they look after. “The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) wanted to revive farming in the whole of the Amathole District. Wuduza is one of the first nine farms helped by Riverside to get funding from the IDC.
“The Department of Agriculture, under the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), also assisted many of the other farmers from 2006 with R8,5 million in development finance. The department funded a further R1 million towards a one hectare intensive blueberry development under shade cloth. We have our own farms, agri-processing and fruit-handling facilities as well, so we have the right expertise.
Wuduza received a loan of R1,25 million from the IDC. Riverside keeps an eye on things to ensure that the farms develop and that farmers service their debt to the IDC and reinvest in the business for export. This money was used to establish orchards and for working capital. By 2010, the farm was yielding enough high-grade oranges for markets in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Far East, Canada and Russia.
Mzo Msimang, Project Coordinator for the Amathole District in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, describes Riverside as a strategic partner.
“Through our new Recapitalisation and Development Programme (RECAP), farmers are able to access infrastructure development funding. However, there are strict controls in place. The programme is audited by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and is mentor-controlled.”
RECAP also funds mentorship and training programmes. Msimang says the programme aims to help small-scale farmers graduate into commercial farmers under the supervision of experienced mentors.
RECAP provides emerging farmers with agricultural infrastructure such as plants, irrigation equipment, fencing and plant material, as well as other resources, including fertilizers and chemicals
This year, Riverside helped Wuduza to get approval for R3,5 million from the provincial Department of Agriculture.
With agriculture being at the mercy of weather conditions, the farm is still recovering from a devastating hailstorm in 2011, which damaged the yield. However, Painter is confident that the farm will be able to export again in the 2013 season.
“The farm should be able to produce high- quality oranges for the export market next year. The orchard planting will be completed in spring this year and the business will be in full production with citrus, berries and pomegranates in four to five years’ time.”
Wuduza also creates jobs for the community.
It currently has eight casual and three permanent workers and employed 28 casual workers last year. Wuduza members have also changed from being employees to being employers on the farm.
“Our government has done a lot for us; this project has given birth to another community project on this same title deed, which is benefiting the community and is wholly owned by the community,” says Katyana.