AGRICULTURE, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza yesterday hailed sugar giant Illovo South Africa for the successful culmination of its R127 million life-changing Small-Scale Grower (SSG) Cane Development Project, which has created more than 860 sustainable jobs in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) while empowering women to participate in the rural economy.
Through National Treasury’s Jobs Fund, Illovo Sugar SA initiated a project to develop up to 3 000 hectares of small-scale grower cane land in KZN, resulting in the creation of 1 188 new jobs and the training of 1 630 people.
As part of Illovo Corporate Social Investment initiatives, almost R20 million has been invested in education projects over the past seven years.
The under-supply of sugar cane into the South Coast mills necessitated action to be taken to re-establish sugar cane in the SSG areas that were lying furlough and within close proximity of the affected mills. A sustainable development model was sought to ensure the future cane supply in the SSG areas.
The project also takes place as the sugar industry is on its knees as a result of plunging world sugar prices and as a sugar tax has added to the industry’s burden.
The project was aimed at ensuring equitable, inclusive and sustainable growth through leveraging sugar cane as a catalyst for rural development, while ensuring a secure supply to the Illovo mills.
To this end, Illovo Sugar SA committed to develop contiguous areas of tribal land to sugar cane, develop and empower previously disadvantaged cane growers and contractors, create employment and contribute to development in the rural areas, create SMME service providers and increase cane supply to the Illovo Sugar mills.
In partnership with the Jobs Fund, which provided 50 percent of the R127 million capital, while the remaining 35 percent was taken as loans by the growers from Micro Agricultural Finance Institution of South Africa, with Illovo underwriting the debt. The project has created a thriving small-scale growers project on the Ingonyama Trust land.
Illovo’s Small-Scale Grower Cane Development Project is seen as a clear validation of the great potential that existed for partnerships between businesses and their host communities on the one hand, and government on the other, to reduce poverty and stimulate economic activity.
The collaborative multi-stakeholder approach to bring a local system of innovation to life in just three years has resulted in 1 704 growers being given the opportunity to develop cane on their land.
This project has created direct jobs in rural communities while implementing socio-economic and enterprise development initiatives and the transfer of valuable farming and business skills.
By leveraging on the built capabilities and securing a spot in the Illovo Sugar value chain, communities would earn upwards of R80 million in income annually. Since the capacity to work the land resided within the communities in the form of the upskilled local contractors, there was a multiplier effect as this new money was spent within the community and was catalytic to broader economic activity.