Farmers taste long-term rewards

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach him to fish and he'll eat forever. This is the philosophy that KwaZulu-Natal MEC for finance and economic development, Zweli Mkhize, has adopted to fight poverty.

Three hundred small-scale sugar cane farmers in KwaZulu-Natal are proof that this philosophy works.

At a ceremony at Lynton Hall Fine Country Estate in Pennington on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal this week, they celebrated their success.

The 300 have received funding from the Gijima local and economic development project funded by the European Union and loans from Absa to help them improve their sugar cane farm.

Rejoice Ncwane, 50, a woman farmer, is one of the beneficiaries of the funding .

The farmers have jointly received a 70percent grant from the EU through the Gijima local economic development programme and 30percent from Absa bank to improve their existing sugar cane farming operations.

"My father grew sugar cane and that was how we survived as a family.

"It was the only source of income for us when I was growing up," said Ncwane.

When her parents died and she had to care for her two brothers and a sister, she continued to grow cane to earn money to put food on her family's table .

"Because of my limited knowledge about growing sugar I had some problems, so I decided to save the little money I had to study agriculture," she said.

The course helped her improve her farming skills and the money she generated increased too.

Now she is able to pay for her children's education.

The Gijima project is expected to generate a large supply of sugar cane and boost the income of the small-scale farmers in the region, and also create jobs for local people.

The EU has given a R3,65million grant to the project, while Absa has supplied a loan of R1,75million.

The farmers will repay the money within 15 years.

Mkhize is encouraging people in the provinceto become involved in the agricultural industry beyond simple subsistence farming.

"Through this project and others in the future, we want to see people, especially young black people, use the land productively by growing vegetables and sugar cane for market," he said.

The farmers will cultivate 500ha under sugar cane for sale to the open market as well as some local retail outlets.