Ten primary cooperatives in the Ncorha Irrigation Scheme in Cofimvaba became the first beneficiaries of the agro-processing initiative managed by the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC). This cash injection resulted in 955 hectares (ha) of white maize being planted after the cooperatives set aside 1 000 ha of their land for cultivation for the benefit of 706 beneficiaries who are the landowners. The Ncora Irrigation Scheme is 5000ha in extent, with 3000ha under irrigation, whilst the remaining 2000ha is dry land.
“Of the 955 hectares, there is also 55 hectares of land which recorded an 8 ton per hectare yield. This is indicative of earlier studies which indicated that Ncora has a yield potential of 6,5 to 8 tons per hectare. The three tons per hectare yield return is in line with ECRDAs projections. This is a favourable return compared to the national average of 4,2 tons per hectare if you consider that the figures were adjusted because of late planting with funds only being approved in December 2013. The maize was planted between December 2013 and at the end of January 2014.
“ECRDA received R16.5 million for the implementation of the programme in 2013/14. A total budget of R48 million has been committed to the Ncora site over the next three years. The budget covers primary production, purchase of machinery and implements for mechanisation units, development of infrastructure such as storage facilities, milling shed for beneficiation, trade centre, social facilitation as well as well as marketing and branding of products,” says ECRDA agronomist Luvo Qongqo.
A total of 10 primary cooperatives wit 706 beneficiaries in Ncorha who are the landowners participated in the programme. A total of 55 temporary jobs were created during production. The Ncora harvest was sold to Ncora Dairies which is owned by Amadlelo at R2 000 per ton. The cooperatives will determine how to share the proceeds or whether to expand their land for planting in the new season.
“However, this comes with a certain degree of responsibility because the cooperatives are required to contribute 25% of production costs at R2 000 per hectare. The total production cost is R8 000 a hectare. ECRDA will make production cost contributions on a sliding scale of 100% in the first season, 75% in the second, 50% in year three, 25% in year four while the cooperatives will be required to contribute 100% of the production costs in year five,” explains Qongqo.
These sites are located in close proximity to where a milling plant for processing and silos for storage will be established in the new financial year. There will also be a trading store where the processed products will be sold. The plan is to capacitate the beneficiaries so that they can continue production on their own. Construction of two silos with a capacity of 2 000 tons is expected to be completed in January 2015. The construction of the mill is expected to begin early in the new year.
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.
ECRDA is investigating a partnership with Grain South Africa in the new financial year on the training aspect for emerging farmers. Another partnership with the Grain Farmer Development Association which offers funding for developing farmers is envisaged.
In 2013/14, ECRDA also implemented the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reforms Letsima grain production programme. The department made available R38 million for production. Some 6 559 hectares were planted across five districts with yellow maize; benefitting 325 projects. These projects are constituted by 8 741 beneficiary landowners while 432 temporary jobs were created during production.