This agricultural project covering 5 hectares of what once was waste land, was started in 2007 by Vuyani Maposela and a number of other people from his village using a small grant from the Department of Social Development (DSD) in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
Presently there are 7 local people working alongside Vuyani to cover the day to day tasks for this project.
The project started to look very promising back in 2007. The early enthusiasm by the project team created a feel of involvement and ownership and a variety of vegetables were grown. Due to the DSD requesting a “Public Launch” for the project to create publicity for the funding provided back in October 2007, everything was directed towards the place looking good for that event rather than for true planning to see benefits of sustainability.
Towards the end of last year, and particularly at the beginning of 2008, the project looked like it was running out of steam. The irrigation pump broke down and was in East London for a long time for repair. Very heavy rains from December for a few months meant that often the road from Mbozi village down to the project site was impassable, and so a lot of vegetables such as cabbage and butternut rotted in the field. The rains and warm temperatures resulted in incredible weed growth and the limited labour resulted in the project being “overwhelmed”.
At present there is something of an encouraging renaissance taking place, and things are looking much better, partly to do with the following factors:
The DSD has given a tractor to the project to assist with working the land, planting and harvesting, as well as getting to and from the village to the “Garden”. Local support has provided a “loan” of R2,000 (£140), with which Vuyani has been able to buy a good supply of seedlings which have now been planted. Also the irrigation pump is now working well again.
5 Hectare of waste land being turned into Agricultural land to create sustainability for the local community is being managed by one person, Pastor Vuyani. He is the Planner, strategist, office manager/administrator, payroll-clerk, foreman, tractor driver, marketing manager, sales manager, the PR man for the government officials, etc, etc.
The other members of the project only see “work” as being that which is done manually on the actual site. They do not have the skills or understanding of the project requirements to make it successful. At the moment Pastor Vuyani is the only “educated” member of the project, and so it all falls on him to ensure all is done to keep this project on track. But even he has only 24 hours per day.
The project started to cover 5 hectares with a grant of SAR 250,000 (£17,000) from the DSD. Much of this was used for the initial infrastructure sent up – fencing, irrigation system, buildings/storerooms on site.
Other projects around the Eastern Cape to create sustainability were given grants of SAR 750,000 (£50,000) although in size much smaller projects. The DSD informed Vuyani that their project had accomplished more with the smaller grant than any of the other ones who had been given 3 times the amount. They said, there would be a further SAR 500,000 (£34,000) being made available in time.
Expecting that amount or part of it towards the end of last, the funding “in hand” was spent on various things that could have been managed different and items could have been purchased later had they known the money would not be forthcoming. This left the project with no funding, other than the loan provided by local supporters to be able to purchase new seedlings. The DSD funding is still being promised, timescales unknown and the plan made with the DSD is that with the additional funding the Project should use it as follows:
- The grant is dependent on the Project “growing” from the present 5 hectares to 10 hectares, clearing a further 5 hectare to allow planting
- The purchase of more technology/machinery to help with the purchase of:
- A mechanical planter to work on the back of the tractor
- A trailer for the tractor to help transport the produce up to Mbozi village
- A strong rotovator for keeping the areas between planting weed free
- More fencing and irrigation for the second 5 hectares
In order to ensure that the project will become successful and provide the long term sustainability for the local community there are three main areas to be considered:
The project desperately needs somebody with the skills to manage the administration and control documents such as planting and harvesting plans and schedules, book-keeping and financial reports for those providing funding, merchandising/marketing/sales for prospective buyers/wholesalers. The cost for such an individual would be £150 to £180 per month and should become self-funding through the success of the project within 12 to 18 month. Funding requirement for 12 month would be £1800,
Due to the fact that the site is in a steep valley and only accessible by four wheel drive or tractor, wholesalers who are willing to come close to the site demanding large discounts for this, which takes away most of the profit margin and leaves little for investment and expansion. They are aware that without transport the only way the produce can get to market is by being collected from near the site. A trailer for the tractor when it arrives from the DSD helps with the first stage of the journey, taking the produce up from the riverside field to Mbozi village. However, the most of the produce needs to go to Willowvale, Idutywa or even Mthatha, respectively 15km, 45km,and 135km from Mbozi. None of these are really “tractor journeys”.
Therefore a good single-cab bakkie (pick up truck) preferably a four wheeled drive (4x4) and long wheel base would be a great asset for this.
To be able to purchase a decent second hand vehicle of required specification would cost in the region of SAR 115,000-140,000 (£8,000 -£10,000).
Mr Maxaulana Malungaselele (known as Rufus) who is also managing the MIDA project in Dutywa, and who is government Ministry of Agriculture trained, is helping with some basic training.
There is also hope that “AMOS”, a group of mainly white Christian farmers from throughout SA who have a desire to “put back into the nation” will come on board with their skills and knowledge.
Pastor Vuyani also has links with an organisation in Kwa Zulu Natal, known as “Kwasiza Bantu”, which is a large, creditable and successful initiative. They have helped with advice and encouragement. The hope is that initially one of their experienced people will come down and live here to help the kick-start the project.
The advantage of the “Amos” people is that they are experienced in “sustainable agriculture”, using a minimum of chemicals, ploughing, etc. At present, this method of doing things has not caught on at all in this area of the Eastern Cape. However, information that we have suggests that with the growing world food shortages, China and India are a “step ahead” of Africa and are purchasing all the fertiliser they can get their hands on. Thus the manufacturers of these products in SA are exporting all they can. The result of this is that the availability of them in SA is getting less, and the price is rising astronomically. (Price has gone up over 180% in last 6 months)
In the light of this it would appear that the production of compost for feeding the soil remains vital. We may also need to research the planting of "nitrogen fixing” legume trees/plants planted into the area.
If we can get the funding as outlined above and the support from those groups of people, the Project has every chance of becoming successful and profitable providing long term sustainability, employment and food in the Transkei. Reach South Africa is committed to support this project to achieve the level of sustainability it can, providing much needed employment in the area and by doing so reducing poverty. We hope that you are able to become a partner in this project.