A company is developing a new R 300-million (US$ 22-million) black empowerment in the Sundays River Valley in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. It could be the blueprint for future empowerment projects in the South African agricultural sector.
The Sundays River Citrus Company (SRCC), harvesting 10% of South African citrus, bought the 1 200 ha Wildemansplaas in 2015. The intention was to spend R 300-million to empower previously disadvantaged farm- and pack house workers in the citrus sector.
The architects of the project is aware of the obstacles that scuppered empowerment deals in the past. They plan to avoid these obstacles by giving the beneficiaries technical and financial support over a long term.
Through the project, 35 commercial citrus farmers will get the opportunity to become shareholders in Ikamwa Lethu (“Our Future”, in Xhosa) on behalf of their workers. These shareholdings will count towards their legally required Black Economic Empowerment-goals. It will also mean that they won’t have to subdivide their own land.
The income from the shares will go towards development costs on the farm.
The project gained its first approval when the Eastern Cape Department of Water and Sanitation awarded water rights for 675 ha on the farm. In 2023, when fully operational, the project should provide jobs to 80 permanent and 700 seasonal workers.
Mr. Ken Niewenhuizen, SRCC manager of transformation and development, says 400 community members would be empowered as shareholders as part of Ikamwa Lethu. The project will also stimulate growth of related industries such as logistics and fruit transport.
The project uses the guidelines set out by Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP). The NDP proposes that full time farm workers should own 20% of the farming enterprises and landowners could retain half (10%) of the shares.
According to Niewenhuizen the aim of the project is that farm- and pack house workers should own 60% shares of Ikamwa Lethu, the SRCC 5, 5 % and participating citrus growers the remaining 34, 5 %.
The project will have four phases. The farm will be deforested during the first 18 month phase. Dams, other infrastructure and the first 150 ha of orchards will be laid down in this phase. When in full production, the farm will deliver an estimated total of 54 000 ton of fruit. That is almost a quarter of the current production of the SRCC.