A farm in Cato Ridge in Durban’s Outer West is to be developed into an agri-park incubator as part of an eThekwini Municipality plan to stimulate agriculture in the area which has been devastated economically, first by the closure of Rainbow Chicken poultry farms and then by Covid-19.
This was announced by Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda yesterday after a visit to the Cato Ridge Poultry Farm in Hammarsdale and Ilangabi Elingacishi Youth Nursery in Umzinyathi to assess progress on the development of the initiatives.
The municipality has invested R17.7 million to both sites which have already created 43 permanent jobs. The Cato Ridge Chicken Farm is run by Isukile Agricultural Cooperative, formed by the retrenched employees, who officially began operating in December 2020 and are starting to soar.
Kaunda said: “We had to do something when Rainbow Chicken Farm closed shops and we are here today to highlight progress of our efforts and outline the plan on how to further create more jobs on the farm.”
Nonhle Mdunge of Isukile Cooperative said things are going well as they sold out their batch of 7 500 chickens from their first cycle within a month and are now on their second batch. “We supply our chicken to informal traders surrounding informal traders up to Pietermaritzburg and sell to immediate community.”
Kaunda said the bigger plan was to develop the Cato Ridge farm into an agri-park incubator that would see a total of 103 jobs created on site.
“Plans are at an advanced stage to establish a sheep farming set to create opportunities for about 48 SMMEs. The sheep unit installation within the Cato Ridge farm will begin in May and is set to be completed in July this year. In the first phase, four sheep units will operate accommodating 1000 sheep each. The first phase will create approximately 16 jobs,” he said.
The municipality has also given the green light for hydroponic farming to grow high-volume produce and provide an opportunity for private sector investment and partnering, as well as renovate more broiler houses to boost broiler production.
The tour proceeded to Ilangabi Elingacishi Nursery in Umzinyathi, a cooperative made of five youngsters which started its full operation in March 2020, which produces seedlings and vegetables.
Chairperson of Ilangabi Elingacishi, Philani Magwaza said they appreciated the mayor’s visit as it gave them the opportunity to showcase the work they had done to turn their lives around and contribute to the local economy since March 2020.
“We have created employment for ourselves and created an additional five permanent jobs for locals as well as hire provide temporary jobs as and when the need arises. We further provide skills transfer to local emerging youth in agriculture. We have an existing contract to supply Spar at KwaMashu station.”
Magwaza thanked the municipality for all the support and mentioned they wouldn’t be where they are without all the support and onsite mentorship they provide. He disclosed that with seedlings alone they generate an income of over R120 000.
A total of R96.1 million has been invested since 2018 by the municipality, provincial government and other stakeholders to support and open markets for previously disadvantaged farmers and over 1,400 permanent jobs have been created within this four-year period by supported agri-SMMEs. Approximately R39.1 million of that investment is from eThekwini Municipality.
This has been channelled through infrastructure support programmes facilitated by Municipality’s Agri-Business Department established in 2018 to create an enabling environment for farmers that are commercially producing vegetables, sheep, poultry (broilers and egg layers), pigs and cannabis.
The support already provided includes four youth nurseries, fencing and irrigation of up to 40 SMMEs and 2 100 hectares supported with mechanization (ploughing, disking and ridging) through the six tractors owned by the municipality.
The city has also provided tunnel farm rentals, vertical farm facilities, access to markets programmes as well as training and mentorship.