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The leadership at SA Canegrowers is firmly of the view that the development of its social unity protocol which brings together the essence of sustainable development goals and aligns with the principles of the National Development Plan provides a wide range of opportunities for farmers and the association to work together to improve the lives of farm workers, restitution claimants and the rural communities as a whole. During the 2018/19 season the SA Canegrowers’ development team focused on building a clear and fresh mandate for the Development Portfolio. This fresh focus - which was also aligned to the SA Canegrowers Social Accord - included cultivating partnerships and strengthening collaboration efforts with various industry representatives and members of the private and the public sector to increase funding for community projects and for the provision of training for the SA Canegrowers’l members at no cost where possible. One of the main avenues of funding was through the South African Sugar Association’s transformation programmes. Also, officials from the Grower Development Office met with regional representative services early in the season to make sure all SA Canegrowers’ members were kept well informed on industry news and developments particularly in connection with information on legislation changes, the
outcome from discussions with the government and the settlement of the import tariff as just some of the issues which affected farming operations during the year.
Development initiatives and strategies introduced during the year to benefit our members were in line with the SA Canegrowers five values pillars as follows:
Our team focused on making sure we made submissions for funding to assist all our small- scale growers within sugarcane regions. In total four projects were submitted to The Coco-Cola Company. The SA Canegrowers proposal was for all black growers training (both small- scale and land reform growers), ratoon management support, seedcane projects and a small machinery project. The projects we proposed in the submission were in response to real grower needs. Our team drove the cultivation of partnerships between SA Canegrowers and Enterprise iLembe resulting in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that has allowed SA Canegrowers to develop training material on financial management, record keeping and the governance for the llembe District Municipality’s vegetable growing co-operatives. Two groups of vegetable farmers in Indwedwe were organised into co-operatives and they plant vegetables which they then sell to the Department of Education’s feeding scheme programme.
We made sure that transparent and accurate communication regarding the South African Sugar Association’s intermediate transformation initiatives reached each and every grower at the appropriate times. The South African sugar industry spent an added R172 million on transformation initiatives which are solely funded through the levies from sugarcane growers (about 64%) and the millers (about 36%). The aim of the funding is to promote the financial stability of the smallest cane farmers and land reform beneficiaries in the sector. Funding was also committed to paying black growers a premium price for their sugarcane, while at the same time assisting with training and the supply of seedcane.
Our team hosted and coordinated three women empowerment events: two of which were our Women’s month conferences held in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. A further women’s forum was held on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast to assist growers with sugar industry analysis. In the future we are looking to create a more formal structure to assist these ladies with their work on an ongoing basis.
Working with the SA Canegrowers’ Research Economist, Sinothando Dube and Human Resources Consultant, Karen Close our team project managed a South African Sugar Association Youth Development programme. The ten enrolled candidates on the programme were successfully placed with large-scale growers in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. Women candidates were given preference unless the growers requested otherwise. The aim of the programme is to create opportunities for young people to gain practical sugarcane farming experience. The candidates are involved in all the day-to-day activities on the farms which in some cases also have other crops such as macadamia nuts, banana, timber and or tea tree plantations.
Research carried out by SA Canegrowers in 2015 showed that the high cost of funerals was impacting heavily on the financial wellbeing of the sector’s most vulnerable members, i.e. farmworkers and small-scale farmers. As a result toward the end of 2018 SA Canegrowers in partnership with Mihr Integrated Membership Administration (MIMA) and Ulwembu Financial Services launched its funeral benefits scheme for farmworkers and small-scale growers. The scheme is a first for South Africa’s agriculture sector and is underwritten by Guardrisk Life. The scheme has also made it possible for SA Canegrowers commercial scale growers to provide sustainable and improved worker remuneration packages for their staff. For eligible small- scale growers, SA Canegrowers offers a R15 subsidy towards the cost of benefits on the programme, subject to them being active members of the association in April each year. The R15 subsidy covers small-scale growers aged between 18 and 65 with R10 000 funeral cover on their life. Coverage for small-scale growers aged from 66 to 85, as well as immediate and extended family, is activated by registration on the scheme and the pre-payment of contributions paid on a quarterly, half- yearly or annual basis. For farmworkers employed by commercial farmers, contributions are paid on behalf of employees via a payroll deduction. Alternative payment mechanisms on the scheme were devised to protect the scheme and members from costly debit-order rejections. In addition, members may add benefits to upgrade their cover levels to as much as R100 000, as well as include immediate and extended family. Furthermore, what is termed the Salabedla benefit provides a fixed term pension for dependents. The additional benefits are at the discretion of the individual members. The innovation in this product is not only its affordability at R37.50 for basic cover of R25 000, but the members are able to register up to nine immediate relatives and 20 extended family members. The benefits are paid out within three hours of receiving all the necessary documentation and the education process for those eligible has been comprehensive with visits to the farms - sometimes more than three times to one farm - to explain the details of the scheme to members in their home language. The scheme is already affecting more than 75 000 people.
A two-day workshop to promote healthy eating and the importance of hydration for cane cutters was held over two days in February 2018 at Eston and Mid lllovo. Attendance at Eston totalled 32 cane cutters and 15 workers at Mid lllovo. The workers were taught by nutritionists from the South African Sugar Association on the importance of balanced meals using foods to which they already had access such as pap, beans and cabbage. They were also encouraged to drink at least 2I of water a day. General observations and findings revealed that there was much that could still be done to improve the living conditions for cane cutters to ensure they were able to maintain a healthy diet, for example, refrigeration facilities, access to clean water particularly in the fields and access to high energy and high protein foods with sufficient vitamins and minerals.