Reap­ing the re­wards of land re­form

Public Sector Manager - - Contents -

Ncera Macadamia Farm­ing is the suc­cess story that shows land re­form can re­sult in greater in­clu­sion, eco­nomic growth and job cre­ation

You must be a re­ally hard nut to crack if you want to make it as a macadamia nut farmer be­cause it takes at least seven years to start har­vest­ing af­ter your in­vest­ment.

At least, that is the opin­ion of Cowan Skelem, one of those be­hind Ncera Macadamia Farm­ing (NMF) near East Lon­don who says that it takes great de­ter­mi­na­tion to make it in this in­dus­try.

Although macadamia nuts are said to be hard to beat when it comes to the most lu­cra­tive crop per land area used in South Africa, it takes sev­eral years for farm­ers of this crop to fi­nally see a re­turn on their in­vest­ment.

“It takes per­se­ver­ance and de­ter­mi­na­tion be­cause one waits more than seven years be­fore a tree can even pro­duce nuts,” said Skelem.

He be­gan his role at the farm as a gen­eral worker push­ing a wheel­bar­row. But to­day, Skelem is a skilled worker who is in­volved in the over­all run­ning of the busi­ness, from ad­min­is­tra­tion to lo­gis­tics and over­all su­per­vi­sion.

Be­fore work­ing at the farm, he was un­em­ployed af­ter he lost his job in the lo­cal town and was bat­tling to pro­vide for his fam­ily of four. Land­ing a job at NMF al­lowed Skelem to buy food and school uni­forms for his chil­dren and send them to good schools.

“I am happy and blessed to be work­ing here at the farm. I en­joy my work and it helps me to put food on the table and pro­vide for my kids,” he said.

Eco­nomic growth

The NMF is 51 per­cent com­mu­ni­ty­owned and is one of many suc­cess sto­ries that show land re­form can re­sult in greater in­clu­sion, eco­nomic growth and job cre­ation.

Gov­ern­ment has iden­ti­fied ac­cess to land, through land resti­tu­tion and other schemes, as one of the ways to grow the econ­omy while en­sur­ing food se­cu­rity and in­creas­ing agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion.To date, over 4 850 100 hectares have been ac­quired through the land re­dis­tri­bu­tion pro­gramme.

Since 2009, over 1 743 farms have ben­e­fited from the Re­cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion

and De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme.

How­ever land re­form has not been with­out chal­lenges as some com­mu­ni­ties still lack the nec­es­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate sup­port as well as ac­cess to fi­nance that can help them grow to com­mer­cial farm­ing sta­tus.

The Eastern Cape has large un­der­utilised tracts of land still un­der com­mu­nal ten­ure that could be ac­cessed and worked ef­fec­tively. But the com­mu­nity of Ncera is de­ter­mined to suc­ceed and through part­ner­ships and sup­port from the gov­ern­ment, the 40 000-strong com­mu­nity is on its way to be­com­ing one of the coun­try's top macadamia nut pro­duc­ers.

The R100 mil­lion project thrives on part­ner­ships be­tween East Cape Macadamia (Pty) Ltd (ECM), the com­mu­nity un­der the Vulindlela In­vest­ment Trust and gov­ern­ment.

Com­mu­nity at the cen­tre

The model is based on an 80-year land lease agree­ment which was signed be­tween the com­mu­nity and ECM.The agree­ment states that the lat­ter over­sees pro­duc­tion, mar­ket­ing, pro­cess­ing and man­age­ment and fa­cil­i­tates ac­cess to mar­kets while creat­ing em­ploy­ment as well as trans­fer­ring skills and gen­er­at­ing in­come for the com­mu­nity whose land they use.

The most defin­ing fea­ture of this part­ner­ship is that the com­mu­nity has the final say on pro­cure­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, skills trans­fer and job cre­ation. This guar­an­tees the com­mu­nity the bulk of all op­por­tu­ni­ties brought about by the project.

Ac­cord­ing to the South­ern African Macadamia Grow­ers' As­so­ci­a­tion, new macadamia tree plant­ings have in­creased the num­ber of trees in South Africa from about one mil­lion in 1996 to more than eight mil­lion in 2016, cov­er­ing a to­tal area of ap­prox­i­mately 28 000 hectares.

It is es­ti­mated that at least 7 150 per­ma­nent job op­por­tu­ni­ties have been cre­ated on macadamia farms and another 600 per­ma­nent jobs in crack­ing fa­cil­i­ties. In peak sea­son, the in­dus­try presently pro­vides em­ploy­ment for an ad­di­tional 8 150 work­ers. A to­tal of 12 500 full-time equiv­a­lent work­ers are es­ti­mated to be em­ployed by the macadamia in­dus­try in South Africa.

Com­mu­nity reaps rich re­wards

Com­mu­nity mem­bers in Ncera have not only found jobs through NMF but also ben­e­fit from the farm's many eco­nomic spin-offs.

Their story is a fur­ther in­di­ca­tion of the im­pact that ac­cess to land can have on eco­nomic growth and job cre­ation.The farm cur­rently em­ploys 157 per­ma­nent com­mu­nity mem­bers as well as sea­sonal work­ers dur­ing the har­vest­ing pe­riod.

“Our story is very im­por­tant to the com­mu­nity es­pe­cially when it comes to the skills that this project has ex­posed us to. I started off as a gen­eral worker push­ing a wheel­bar­row but now I am a skilled worker who is ex­posed to the over­all run­ning of the busi­ness,” said Skelem.

He ex­plained that 90 per­cent

of the nuts pro­duced on the Eastern Cape farm are ex­ported to big mar­kets such as the United States, Rus­sia and China.

“I am very proud be­cause it means gen­er­a­tions to come, even my own grand-chil­dren, will ben­e­fit from the life-long dol­lar-based in­come gen­er­ated by the Trusts through the sale of the nuts,” he added.

NMF board in­au­gu­ral chair­man Joe Jon­golo said that the project's busi­ness strat­egy is pro­longed and fo­cuses on ed­u­ca­tion and skills de­vel­op­ment which are aimed at turn­ing Ncera into a self-re­liant and sus­tain­able ru­ral com­mu­nity.

“For the first time, macadamia nuts are be­ing grown by ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties who own the full value chain, in­clud­ing the nurs­ery and fac­to­ries.

“This sends a state­ment to the whole in­dus­try that ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties are ca­pa­ble, and with land they are not just com­ing in to own one com­po­nent of the in­dus­try as labour­ers − but they are able to thrive in the in­dus­try as a whole,” he said.

New op­por­tu­ni­ties

Jon­golo sees the farm as an al­ter­na­tive to the min­ing sec­tor as the Eastern Cape has been known to be the big­gest sup­plier of labour to the mines.

The project has also boosted lo­cal con­trac­tors in the ar­eas of trans­port and lo­gis­tics as most of the work in th­ese ar­eas is given to lo­cal com­pa­nies.

Con­se­quently about R200 000 per an­num is set aside for ser­vices pro­vided by con­trac­tors oper­at­ing within the Ncera com­mu­nity.

The project has made more than R11.6 mil­lion since its launch in 2006 and has grown to also in­clude a top-class nurs­ery.

The nurs­ery re­ceived a five-star rat­ing from the SA Macadamia Grow­ers' As­so­ci­a­tion and has led to the ex­pan­sion of NMF and gave birth to Ama­jingqi Macadamia Farm­ing lo­cated in Ama­jingqi near Wil­low­vale on the Wild Coast.

Launched in 2015, the project has al­ready seen the pro­duc­tion of 200 hectares of trees and fu­ture ex­pan­sion is on the cards.

Broad­en­ing hori­zons

Jon­golo says the long-term in­ten­tion of the com­mu­nity is to branch out of the Eastern Cape in or­der to de­velop the whole macadamia value chain and cre­ate sus­tain­able eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties in prov­inces such as Lim­popo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

“We see NMF as a tem­plate for em­pow­er­ment and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties which can be du­pli­cated across the coun­try and to other farm­ing sec­tors. We chal­lenge the gov­ern­ment to se­ri­ously look unto ven­tures of this na­ture,” he said.

While the pace of land re­form and resti­tu­tion has been the sub­ject of crit­i­cism, gov­ern­ment is adamant that it is ad­dress­ing the chal­lenges emerg­ing farm­ers ex­pe­ri­ence as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

Gov­ern­ment sup­port is also pro­vided through var­i­ous state pro­grammes such as Let­sema, the Re­cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion and De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme, and through fund­ing agency Mafisa.

Sup­port in­volves train­ing, ac­cess to credit, on-and-off farm in­fra­struc­ture, ac­cess to mar­kets, sub­si­dis­ing agri­cul­tural in­sur­ance and the trans­fer of sci­en­tific re­search and knowl­edge.

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