SA Canegrowers’ small-scale farmer grows diversity
In a picturesque valley on KwaZulu-Natal’s northern coastline, Dube boasts a farm as neat as a new pin with rows of vegetables and stands of the finest sugarcane blowing gently in the coastal breeze.
While this Dube has a deep and abiding love for the land, it is clearly evident she is also a very astute businesswoman.
In 2019 Dube was selected by SA Canegrowers to participate in their seedcane programme signing up for the SA Canegrowers’ in the Amatikulu region when five commercial sugarcane farmers donated 10 tons each of seedcane to five smallscale farmers. The ongoing donations of certified seedcane to these growers in the region is in support of an industry-wide programme aimed at securing disease-free and true-to-type seedcane for all the industry’s more than 20 000 small-scale growers by 2023.
And despite the challenges linked to the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown, the association’s officials and commercial farmers have continued to make it possible for smallscale growers to plant up high these quality seedcane plots which average about 1ha in size.
SA Canegrowers’ Chairman, Rex Talmage said the seedcane was critical for the sustainability of an industry which provided livelihoods in deep rural areas for millions of people which had come under severe threat due to the impact of Climate Change, the government’s recently imposed sugar tax on sugary drinks and negative worldwide sentiment linked to the dietary side effects of eating too much sugar.
“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent national lockdown has meant more than 2.8 million people lost their jobs nationwide. In the agricultural sector alone 66 000 jobs were lost. At SA Canegrowers we see farming as essential in keeping our country food secure. The sugar industry provides livelihoods for well over one million people,” he said.
For Dube the seedcane has meant an increase in the extent of her fields and an opportunity to create employment for her neighbours during harvesting and planting.
“I received 10 tons of N59 seedcane which I used to plant up .2 ha last year. This year I will put aside one hectare as seedcane in the future and the rest I will use to plant new fields I have acquired near my homestead. This will increase the land I have under cane” she said.
Pointing to a large field where a madumbi (indigenous vegetable) crop is almost ready for harvest, Dube said she had also taken to heart the messaging from SA Canegrowers on the need for diverse production to meet current and future challenges in the sector.
As a result, she has planted cabbages, beans and sweet potatoes among other seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes.
SA Canegrowers’ Area Manager for Amatikulu, Sinenhlanhla Njoko said Dube was a role model in her community. “Mrs Dube has not only improved the quality of her sugarcane, but you can now see that she is increasing the number of hectares she is planting up. We also talk about diversification of production a lot and she has taken that to heart as well. When she planted the seedcane she was able to employ people from her community and she creates employment when the crop is harvested,” Njoko said.
She said Dube was chosen for the seedcane programme because not only was she hardworking, but they knew she would understand the value of the seed and how to put it to the best use.
And, as RV (Recoverable Value) price has started to trend upwards following record lows on the world market, Dube says she is more than confident her farming operation will continue to thrive and prosper.
Image: Amatikulu smallscale farmer Lilian Dube and SA Canegrowers’ Area Manager, Sinenhlanhla Njoko admire the quality of Dube’s N59 seedcane plot. The seed was donated last year by commercial growers in the region.