The Okahlamba Local Municipality in KwaZulu Natal hosted its first agriculture and land summit on Wednesday, to among other things, create a platform for farmers, communities and key role players in the industry and government to discuss possible solutions for economic growth and job creation for its residents using agriculture.
The Summit took place in Bergville, a small town outside Pietermaritzburg and was attended by more than 300 community members and stakeholders. Okhahlamba, with a population of about 135 000 people, is one of the poorest municipalities with some of the highest unemphloyment rates in the country, up to 43%. Agriculture, mainly commercial farming, plays a crucial economic role, especially beef, dairy, and grain production.
Stakeholder presentations varied from practical ways of dealing with climate change, access to finance and markets, value chain opportunities, including case studies of successful projects implemented by government and private partners.
Mr Rice Mokoena, of Stokvel Hub, advised farmers and community members on adding value to agricultural products available in the area. Mokoena said through value-adding, farmers and community members could create unique products that can be sold in the community as well as formal markets for income. He said Stokvels, which are common in black communities, can also be used to improve access to resources instead of just for savings and buying consumables at the end of every year.
Ms Zodwa Mazibuko of Agribusiness Development Agency, an agency under the KwaZulu Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, highlighted some of the projects the agency was running to the benefit of residents Okhahlamba Local Municipal Area. She introduced the Cathedral Peak Outgrowers project, a joint initiative of government and the Cathedral Peak Wine Estate (trading as Grain Hills Agri (Pty) Ltd). She said the project, which is youth-driven, is a first of its’ kind where 30 hectares of vineyards have been planted for winemakers, Cathedral Peak Wine Estate, who’ll also be serving as off-takers and mentors. She added that 60 jobs have already been created with the potential to increase as the project grows.
According to Njabulo Buthelezi, Local Economic Development Officer and organizer of the summit, the aim was also to identify gaps and explore opportunities in the value chain within the district and the municipality. “We also wanted to promote and develop the agricultural sector within the municipality for both commercial and small-holder farmers, as well as promoting youth and women participation in the agricultural sector” explained Buthelezi.