Special purpose vehicle AsgiSA EC reached one of its key delivery milestones with the harvest of maize at key sites in the former Tranksei.
Butterworth communities celebrated the first harvest of 900ha of maize and beans planted just over eight months ago through the AsgiSA EC programme.
Harvests mark milestone for rural development agency
The harvest festival, the third of four to take place in the area, marks a milestone of significant achievement for these communities as well as the special purpose vehicle AsgiSA EC which was established by the Eastern Cape Government in September 2007.
To-date, while close to 7,000ha of maize and sugar beans have been planted on land that has lain fallow for 20 years, communities are also celebrating the revival of a work ethic and vision to bolster agricultural produce.
“Food security is a key component of the mode, and as such, communities in areas which have harvested received 10,50kg of maize when the yields have been 5, 5 tons per hectare. Where lower yields are attained, these are discussed with communities, and they receive no less than 4, 50kg bags of maize. The rest of the produce is used either as food supplies for the community while excesses are sold on the open market for reinvestment for the following season.
This approach is aimed at ensuring that these farming enterprises have less reliance on government in terms of funding. To achieve this, a long term focus is required on the part of communities.
Rotation of crops to improve production
The integrated cropping model, which allows for the rotation of crops such as soya beans, canola and sunflowers, is an integral part of the agricultural programme and will improve future production.
AsgiSA EC CEO Simpiwe Somdyala says that although the quantity of the yield has been below the projected 5, 5 tons per hectare, there will be a concerted effort to improve the yield in the next season and possibly expand the plantations by 13,260ha this year. This will take the total area under commercial production to 20 000ha, the first in many years.
Funding, together with mentoring, has been amongst the biggest challenges faced by the AsgiSA EC team.
As part of addressing these and other challenges, AsgiSA EC has implemented a newly-developed agribusiness model which is now being hailed by stakeholders as an innovative and effective tool for promoting commercial production in rural areas. The model will incorporate both outgrowers and co-operatives. However challenges remain and these include storage, logistics, high production costs particularly in virgin land, and the lack of high quality-high volume production skills in the value chain process.
Model ensures communities benefit
“The model also formalises the relationship of outgrowers, emerging farmers, central production units and other partners, ensuring that communities benefit even when production is low. Processing through milling is an area,” he adds.
Furthermore, while there was significant pressure to get the projects underway within a short timeframe, business cases were developed for community projects in order to ensure that the funding had a good chance of being recovered.
In the long-term, it is envisaged that the communities will share in the profits and all the costs will be recovered for the next season. This approach involves AsgiSA EC in the entire value chain which ensures ongoing support for rural communities.
Qumbu, Mt Frere, Butterworth, Matatiele harvests
Successful harvest festivals in Qumbu and Mt Frere have already taken place. The Zingqayi community in Butterworth harvests today [23 July] with the last harvest taking place at Ongeluksnek in Matatiele on 27 July. The yield in this particular project where the festival is taking place averages 3, 5 and 4 tons per hectare, a reasonably good yield given the challenges in planting late last year.