Lo­cal eco­nomic hubs al­ready mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in EC

Vuk'uzenzele - - Rural Development And Land Reform - Siya Miti

a new MILL funded by the Ru­ral En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment Hub will im­prove the lives of ru­ral Eastern Cape res­i­dents and spur eco­nomic growth.

anew maize milling plant in ru­ral Mbizana prom­ises the hope of a re­ju­ve­nated econ­omy in this Eastern Cape mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Lo­cated in Dy­i­fani vil­lage out­side Bizana, the mill draws em­ploy­ees – mostly youth – from lo­cal vil­lages and pro­vides an in­come to more than a 1 000 co-op­er­a­tive mem­bers.

Funded by the Eastern Cape gov­ern­ment un­der the Ru­ral En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment Hubs (RED hubs) pro­gramme, the R53.5 mil­lion fa­cil­ity pro­cesses maize sup­plied by lo­cal co-op­er­a­tives for use by lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties as well as be­ing shipped to the shelves of na­tional re­tail chains.

At the un­veil­ing at the end of March, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ex­plained that the Dy­i­fani project along with three other RED Hub projects in the prov­ince – lo­cated in Chris Hani, OR Tambo and Al­fred Nzo mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties – will gen­er­ate in­come for res­i­dents of ne­glected ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

“These RED hubs with the pri­mary pro­duc­tion cov­er­ing a to­tal of 3 754 ha of land and pro­duc­ing maize and sorghum planted by ru­ral co-op­er­a­tions ... made an in­come of about R8.2 mil­lion dur­ing the midterm.

“The RED hubs cre­ated a to­tal of 397 per­ma­nent and 679 short-term jobs and there’s a po­ten­tial to cre­ate more jobs when the milling plants are fully op­er­a­tion,” the Pres­i­dent

ex­plained.

Owned by vil­lagers, feed­ing the coun­try

Vusi Ngesi, gen­eral man­ager of the Bizana Mill, cal­cu­lates at least 1 400 peo­ple ben­e­fit di­rectly from the mill’s op­er­a­tions. There are 64 full time em­ploy­ees and at least 100 mem­bers in each of the 14 lo­cal co-op­er­a­tives that sup­ply the mill, a sec­ondary co-op­er­a­tive, with maize to process. The de­vel­op­ment has al­ready im­proved the re­gion, says Ngesi.

“It has changed the lives of peo­ple be­cause there are job op­por­tu­ni­ties, and milling is here, and they can get maize meal from our own area. What’s also very im­por­tant is that peo­ple are be­ing skilled in tak­ing soil sam­ples, analysing soil and de­ter­min­ing the type of fer­tiliser to use to get a cer­tain yield.”

The re­gion is mov­ing from a col­lec­tive of sub­sis­tence farm­ers to be­com­ing a re­gion built on com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture. The mill grinds maize for Lethabo Milling, who are sup­pli­ers to na­tional chains like Boxer Su­per­mar­kets and Mass­mart, own­ers of the Makro and Game su­per­mar­ket chains.

On­go­ing de­vel­op­ment

The Eastern Cape Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Agency (ECRDA) pro­vides on­go­ing busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ser­vices to all four of the RED hubs they have fi­nanced. The prov­ince has turned to Lethabo Milling founder Xolani Ndz­aba to help build sus­tain­able in­dus­tries around the ex­ist­ing RED hubs.

Ndz­aba says, with his as­sis­tance the Bizana Mill has al­ready won or­ders from the Boxer chain. “That plant has a lab to en­sure the milled maize meets their qual­ity stan­dards. In terms of the mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing, the agree­ment cov­ers all RED hubs. We pro­vide tech­ni­cal skills, man­age­ment de­vel­op­ment and ac­cess to mar­kets, which is where Lethabo comes in.”

Based in the Free State, Lethabo Milling is be­lieved to be the first 100 per cent black-owned maize pro­cess­ing com­pany in South Africa. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Lethabo and the Eastern Cape pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment be­gan af­ter he was in­vited by the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try (the dti) speak to the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on agri­cul­ture. “Back in 2014, par­lia­ment asked me how I would as­sist com­mu­ni­ties to ac­cess the mar­ket and how I could en­sure more black millers come into the in­dus­try,” said Ndz­aba.

Lethabo has now opened an

“The RED hubs cre­ated a to­tal of 397 per­ma­nent and 679 short-term jobs and there’s a po­ten­tial to cre­ate more jobs when the milling plants are fully op­er­a­tion.” Pres­i­dent Ja­cob

Zuma

of­fice in East Lon­don af­ter a suc­cess­ful meet­ing with ECRDA set up by the dti. Ndz­aba’s com­pany has 40 em­ploy­ees with an av­er­age age of 31 be­cause he fo­cuses on youth de­vel­op­ment.

“Forty-three per cent of my em­ploy­ees are fe­males and op­er­ate at the crit­i­cal parts of busi­ness such as labs, pack­ag­ing lines. I run a plant that has passed food safety stan­dards. We pre­sented to the depart­ment and ECRDA … ECRDA told us they have milling plants es­tab­lished in com­mu­ni­ties and asked us to check how we can help with food safety stan­dards,” Ndz­aba said, ex­plain­ing the be­gin­ning of his re­la­tion­ship with ECRDA.

(Photo: GCIS)

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma with Lethabo Milling founder Xolani Ndz­aba and EC Premier Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle at the un­veil­ing of the Bizana RED hub milling plant.

(Photo: GCIS)

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ad­dresses work­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers at the launch of the new Ru­ral En­ter­prises De­vel­op­ment Hub near Mbizana in the Eastern Cape.

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