New sugar farming project creates 860 jobs in South Africa

South Africa, Illovo’s small Small-Scale Grower Cane Development Project has created more than 860 jobs in KwaZulu-Natal and doubled the sugar producer’s Sezela factory supply of sugarcane over a three-year period.

The sugar producer roped in 1 704 growers to produce sugar cane on 3 000 hectares of communal land. The development was funded by Illovo’s R63-million grant that matched another R63-million grant provided by National Treasury’s Job Fund.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development minister Thoko Didiza lauded the project following a site visit on Tuesday, where she met the growers. However, she said, the contribution of black commercial farmers to South Africa’s country’s agricultural economy is still low and requires further intervention from the government and the industry.

Illovo Sugar’s managing director Mamongae Mahlare said: “The confidence of the Jobs Funds which met us halfway with concessional funding, and the support of other stakeholders including the SA Canegrowers Association and the South African Farmers Development Association, have been integral to this revolutionary project.”

The head of the Jobs Fund, Najwa Allie-Edries, who was also at the event, said creative solutions are needed to enable farmers to have long-term access to land.

Below are some of the inspiring thriving community stories shared by women cane growers on how this project has empowered, enriched and changed their lives.

Nomanesi Ngcobo

“I took over the sugarcane-growing business from my late husband. When Illovo Sugar reached out to our community with this project, my husband’s sugarcane that had been planted years before, was no longer growing. The project came at a crucial time for us because the eMalangeni area had run out of sugarcane and many growers were struggling. Sugarcane farming is our bread and butter – it allows us to pay for our children’s education. This has been a life-changing experience and we are so grateful to Illovo South Africa for empowering us and enriching our lives. “To be part of the cane grower’s community as a black woman makes me happy, especially having come from an impoverished background.’’

Nomvula Shozi

“Farming and agriculture have always interested me. I remember asking my father how sugarcane is grown and it remained a passion of mine. After finishing school and university studies, I moved to Durban to work. In early 2018, I learnt about the Illovo Small Scale Grower Development Project and decided to return and try my hand at being a contractor and grower. The training provided changed all of our perspectives about growing sugarcane as a viable business. Illovo Sugar helped us put protocols in place to ensure the sustainability of our businesses.

This initiative also helped me to start and grow my own contracting business, which supports other growers by planting and ratooning their lands. With this project, everything has been kept local and the money we make goes back into our community. I love what I do, and I am so grateful for the opportunity Illovo has given me to pursue my dreams,”