KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development & Tourism (DEDT) in partnership with Tongaat Hulett has taken the concept of public-private partnership to a higher level in their collective drive to accelerate socio-economic transformation in various rural communities in the province. This has been demonstrated in their collaboration and commitment towards the development of small-scale sugar cane farmers with the launch of the Operation Vuselela project. The initiative is aimed at encouraging emerging cane farmers acknowledge the importance of following cane farming methods that ensure higher yields and the improved profit margins necessary to build a sustainable sugar cane farming enterprise. The beneficiaries are ordinary rural citizens who through this joint venture would gradually be extricated from poverty and high levels of unemployment common in most rural communities.
Having helped communities in different parts of the province to organise themselves into co-operatives enterprises through the integration of their pieces of land into viable commercial cane fields, on 20th August 2010, MEC for Economic Development & Tourism, Mr Michael Mabuyakhulu and Chief Executive Officer of Tongaat Hulett, Mr Peter Staude and numerous other dignitaries joined approximately 3 000 members of the Mabhokweni community at Gingindlovu on the north coast in celebrating the official commencement of the project, named Operation Vuselela.
While the province has been synonymous with the sugar industry for more than a century, production in the traditionally rural black communities has not been adequately co-ordinated along profit oriented commercial ventures. This partly contributed to some emerging farmers getting lower returns from their cane farming, leading to them abandoning their fields to be exposed to increased levels of poverty. Operation Vuselela as the Zulu word implies, is geared towards reviving sugar cane farming amongst poverty struck communities as part of government’s strategy to stimulate economic activities even in the remotest rural parts of our province where agriculture appears to be a viable economic option.
Commenting on the project, Mr Mabuyakhulu said the repositioning of the role of small scale sugar cane growers in the Sugar Industry would serve as a catalyst in the promotion of meaningful and empowering economic development in the historically deprived rural communities. Operation Vuselela, he stressed would also restore confidence in the agricultural sector as possible career of choice amongst the youth having witnessed increasing returns scored by their parents through this project. `We are not only here today to celebrate the revival of sugar cane business in our rural communities, but to demonstrate to our young people as well that farming was still one of the most important professional or business pursuits to be considered to ensure sustainable national food security and equitable socio-economic advancement across the province’. He therefore challenged the participants in the project to aim for the sky in terms of product quantity and quality that would result in high profits that could motivate young people to the highly diversified commercial farming. Mabuyakhulu also added that the partnership with Tongaat Hulett was a reflection of growing understanding and co-operation between government and the private sector in capitalizing on specific sectors that would ensure the province’s competitiveness in the global market.
Mr Peter Staude said, “Operation Vuselela reflects Tongaat Hulett’s belief in the future of the South African Sugar Industry, small-scale sugar growers as well as our objective of increasing cane supplies to our mills. The small-scale grower community has a key role to play in the future success of the Sugar Industry and the agricultural sector of KwaZulu-Natal. In addition, Tongaat Hulett continues to promote the establishment of a workable renewable energy framework in South Africa which will further contribute to the financial viability and growth of this industry.”
Staude stated, “As part of the partnership 3 534 hectares of cane will be planted over a three year period which commenced in the 2009/2010 planting season, with 291 hectares being planted to date. Approximately 2 500 small/medium sugar cane growers will be established, at least 726 permanent, and more than 6 000 seasonal jobs will be created through the project over a ten year period and sugar cane generated through the project will be supplied to Tongaat Hulett’s sugar mills. A total amount of R46,7 million will be contributed by DEDT and Tongaat Hulett will make a direct contribution of R10,1 million and an indirect contribution in excess of R20 million in the form of technical, managerial and logistical support over a three year period.”
“Tongaat Hulett is the implementing agent for Operation Vuselela and in line with the spirit of the project all goods and services will be sourced locally, with preference being given to SMME’s that are run by target groups including woman, local people and the youth. The underlying aim of Operation Vuselela is to create employment and general economic development opportunities in the targeted areas with the active part of the project being the Small Scale Grower areas of rural KwaZulu-Natal,” said Staude
Peter Staude concludes, “Tongaat Hulett has the ability and willingness to be a substantive partner to the rural agricultural communities that surround the areas in which we do business. Together with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development & Tourism and the small-scale sugar cane growing communities, we continue to work together for the future success of agriculture and the sugar industry in KwaZulu-Natal.”
Mr Bheko Madlala
Project Manager for Media Liaison & Publicity
Cell: 082 808 1984
Mrs Michelle Jean-Louis
Telephone: 032-439 4101
Cell: 083 386 3846