The farming community in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Midlands have taken ownership of an empowerment initiative to ensure neglected government farms in the area are productive again.
Farmers near Mooirivier want to uplift the community by reviving the farms and empowering and training people.
The uMATI initiative, a non-profit organisation, will spend R21 million to establish an agri-park. The money is appropriated by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Bheki Cele to revive farms in the district which fell in disuse. It was set out for land reform projects and the department agreed that uMATI can use the money.
According to Graham Armstrong, project manager at uMATI, local authorities approved the process on district level.
“A commercial farmer in the district donated 36 ha to the project and this is where the agri-park will be built. The complex includes a training centre, meat, fish- and vegetable processing facility and a farming support centre.
“We are busy finalising soil preparation on several farms – with the aid of mentorship from commercial farmers – for vegetables and grains in the coming summer. The Department of Land Reform agreed to fund the rezoning and environmental impact studies for the agri-parks. The uMATI project has already funded six students from less fortunate families to study at the Weston Agricultural College.
“There is also roughly 18 000 ha available for grazing on government farms in the area and with technical advice and mentoring from commercial farmers, we aim to support local farmers to increase their cattle, improve animal health and to improve genetics through selective breeding. The project has already delivered a number of positive results,” said Armstrong.
Mayor of the Mpofana Municipality, Xolani Duma, said the revival of agriculture in rural areas means a sustainable improvement in living standards for those living in the area. “Projects like this create jobs and focus on transformation at all levels. This makes me very proud of my community.”
Sandy la Marque, chief executive of the agricultural union Kwanalu, believes the project is an example for the agricultural community across KwaZulu-Natal on how to make positive contributions. “This is a project by the community, for the community. Kwanalu is proud supporters of this project.”
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