The Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) says it allocated R11,2 million to its four grain-producing Rural Enterprise Development (RED) Hub aggregation centres in the 2021/22 financial year.
The hubs are located in Mbizana (Winnie-Madikizela Mandela Local Municipality), Mqanduli (King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality), Ncora (Intsika Yethu Local Municipality) and at Emalahleni (Emalahleni Local Municipality). Two RED Hubs harvested 280,3 tons of white maize in 2021/22. A total of 252,7 tons were harvested in Mbizana and 27,6 tons in Mqanduli from maize planted in the 2020/21 cropping season.
“The R11,2 million was used to build potato-sorting infrastructure at Mbizana and to support other operational expenses. In addition, training was provided for tractor drivers at the mechanisation centres. The training was conducted with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).
The budget for agricultural inputs was only made available at the end of October 2021 which turned out to be too late to utilise the funds for primary production. The process to procure agricultural inputs was thus cancelled and only Mbizana and Ncora managed to secure the delivery of inputs,” says ECRDA chief executive officer Simon Qobo.
A total of R3,5 million was allocated to the flora-producing Tshabo RED Hub in Berlin outside East London. With 12 primary co-operatives, the Tshabo RED Hub plants Protea flowers and vegetables. It has drip irrigation pipelines installed and a further installation of 36×36 hydroponic tunnels for vegetable production.
“The Tshabo budget was used for the procurement of implements, servicing and maintenance of tractors and for preparing the site for the vegetable tunnels. No additional planting of flowers took place at Tshabo since the budget was allocated after the flora planting season. Despite the number of challenges encountered at Tshabo, the ECRDA has continued engaging the communities on many issues such as the payment of salaries for 41 workers, providing technical advice on flora production and in resolving social
issues. This was done through a partnership with the team from the Dohne Research Institute,” says Qobo.
In addition, the ECRDA utilised the funds to service the machinery, procure spare parts for tractors, protective clothing, diesel and two bowsers, ridger and chipper for operations. The ECRDA also worked on assessing the existing borehole at the site, clearing and levelling the site for vegetable tunnels.
In 2021/22, the ECRDA also procured and delivered equipment in the form of tractors, trailers and other farm machinery to mechanisation centres located in the Amathole, Sarah Baartman and OR Tambo regions. This is in addition to the already operational Elundini Farmers’ Mechanisation Centre based in Maclear.
The mechanisation centres play an important role in ensuring that small-scale farmers have access to farming equipment and machinery that enhances primary production.
Access to mechanisation services ensures that small-scale farmers are able to plant their crops within the optimum
planting season and that they can increase their hectarage. Mechanisation enhances agricultural productivity by improving the quality and volume of produce as well as preventing post-harvest losses which is common among subsistence farmers who use hand tools.
Mechanisation centres will play a significant role in transforming the current RED Hubs into aggregation centres. At these mechanisation centres, services are offered in the form of ploughing, discing, fertilising, and harvesting. Farmers can also transport their produce and inputs using the equipment and machinery in the mechanisation centres.