The project entailed the preparation of a Development Plan for the establishment of 7 Organic Small Grower Groups (SGGs) for some 286 small scale farmers covering a total area of some 135 ha within the Ugu District Municipality.
I was the lead agent in the Zulu Organics Consortium that made a funding proposal to Gijima, which was a government initiative within the provincial Department of Economic Development (DED) that was managing funds from the European Union for local economic development projects within historically disadvantaged communities. Gijima provided 63% of the funding whilst the 37% balance was provided by Zulu Organics.
The Gijima funding application was for the preparation of a comprehensive Development Plan for SGGs encompassing;- stakeholder consultations; sensitization about organic farming systems; rainwater harvesting designs; land use farm plans; training in organic farming systems; organic certification; value adding processes; establishment of co-operatives, and, marketing, distribution and logistics. The purpose of the Development Plan was to produce a bankable project supported by all stakeholders that would receive funding for implementation.
The design process for this project was outlined in detail in the funding proposal. However, once the funding proposal was accepted, the design process was refined as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 - Design Process
The project mobilization entailed the project team briefing; contractual arrangements with the funding entity; and, a stakeholder consultation process. The latter entailed consultations with Ugu District Municipality, the two local municipalities of Hibiscus Coast and Ezinqoleni, and, the Department of Agriculture, in order sensitize stakeholders regarding low external input sustainable agriculture (LEISA) and the opportunities for organic farming, especially with its emerging niche markets that were paying premium prices for organic certified products.
The selection of SGGs involved the visitation of potential SGGs, site survey and site evaluation in order to select 7 appropriate SGGs and thereafter conclude social compact agreements with the SGGs.
Meanwhile, a product marketing exercise was undertaken to identify value adding opportunities for organic certified produce to be distributed to local markets and also via the newly established Ugu Agricultural Market.
The site planning encompassed the acquisition of orthophoto maps, together with 2m contour intervals. The sites were then assessed by means of a site walkover which identified specific features, especially water courses, areas prone to erosion, boundaries, trees, etc. A keyline rainwater harvesting system was then designed for each project site and again verified with another site walkover. By this stage, the product marketing exercise had identified suitable crops and this contributed towards the final land use farm plan for each site and SGG.
An organisational plan was undertaken for how the SGGs could be organized into farmers co-operatives and then supply the various depots and the Ugu Agricultural Market. This part of the plan also assisted the government stakeholders of the Ugu Agricultural Market to plan the location of the depots and the organics value adding processes at the market.
Five representatives from each SGG and several government officials partook in a 2-day organics sensitization training course wherein the specific land use farm plans and associated rainwater harvesting systems were explained. This exercise was one of the highlights of the project and much enthusiasm was generated.
A training plan was then compiled for the training in organic farming systems, organic certification and internal organic control systems for the SGGs. A detailed programme and budget was compiled from which the financial viability of the whole plan was thoroughly evaluated under various financing scenarios ranging from 100% grant funded to 100% private funding. The project concluded with a project packaging process that tried to solicit funding from various government and parastatal institutions.
The Development Plan has been fully endorsed by all stakeholders. However, despite this endorsement, and, this Development Plan being the only proposal to develop historically disadvantaged small scale farmers in the district who can supply the new Ugu Agricultural Market, the entire project remains unfunded. The provincial Department of Agriculture is still undecided about organic farming, hence the inertia to deal with this proposal, despite the huge potential for socio-economic upliftment for the SGGs and contribution towards local economic development.
The stakeholder consultation process amongst SGGs and officials from various government entities created substantial awareness about sustainable agriculture and the opportunities for organic farming to contribute towards local economic development.
The rainwater harvesting designs have been used in various workshops, conferences and university lectures. Meanwhile, the Bhobhoyi SGG has taken the rainwater harvesting design for their project area and secured private sector Corporate Social Investment funding for its implementation. This revelation was extremely pleasing, since it showed that the 2-day organic farming awareness training course did at least impart some understanding of sustainable agricultural practices and the rainwater harvesting design plan for each SGG area.
The preparation of this Development Plan influenced the establishment of organic value adding processes at the Ugu Agricultural Market which was being constructed in phases at the time and also the construction of several depots to feed this market.
The financial evaluation of the project plan under various scenarios has constructed a financial model that can easily be adapted to assess the financial viability of other projects.