“Subsequently, the Jobs Fund allocated a total of R91 million over a three year period to the ECRDA and ECDC for the implementation of the agro-processing/trading post initiative. This cash injection has resulted in 955 hectares (ha) being planted after the cooperatives set aside 1 000 ha of their land for the cultivation of white maize for the benefit of 706 beneficiaries who are the landowners. The Ncorha Irrigation Scheme is 5000ha in extent, with 3000ha under irrigation, whilst the remaining 2000ha is dry land.
“The Jobs Fund contributed 80% of the funds while the remaining 20% is split equally between the implementing agents.There are 10 villages surrounding the scheme and villages have been organised to structure the management of the scheme into a Producers Assembly where each village is represented. A milling plant will be established where the processing of the maize crop will be done, silos will be built and mechanization units will be established in the form of tractors and related equipment,” says ECRDA chief executive ThoziGwanya.
Gwanya says the initiative is managed along the ECRDAs RED Hub concept which prioritises the village as the centre of operation. The concept links three market elements of production, processing and marketing to boost the competitiveness of rural economies and communities. The result is that production receives the market support it needs to flourish and money is kept ‘alive’ and circulates within a community as long as possible.
“In practice, the RED Hub concept means that maize should be grown by the community, milled in the community, processed and packaged in the community and even sold back into the community with the whole process being owned by these communities,” Gwanya explains.
He says these market elements make up the value chain of the rural economy with coordination, integration and marketing being the core functions of the RED Hub. Ultimately, this concept creates a platform for economic activity resulting in increased rural incomes through the facilitation of primary production, promoting rural savings, investment, processing as well as the creation of a communal and external market.
Phumzile Boyani, chairman of the Ncorha/Qhumanci Producers Assembly Secondary Assembly around which the 10 cooperatives are organised, says once the yield is determined after the harvest, the scheme will decide how much should go back to the landowners.
“This is usually between 5 – 10% of the yield and the rest is sold to the market. Revenues generated from the sale of the maize goes back into planting for the new season and to add extra hectares. The committees of the primary cooperatives manage the funds and decide with the communities how it is to be used,” says Boyani.