Positive action continues

2008-08-29 00:00

TO have an active and functional farmers’ association one needs members who are active, loyal, supportive, participate in the association’s activities and have the wellbeing of agriculture close at heart.

These words, spoken by the late Kranskop farmer, Friedel Redinger, remain at the heart of one of the province’s oldest farmers’ associations — the Kranskop Farmers’ Association (KFA).

In its centenary year, the association is grappling with the challenges of land claims and farm security but president Gunther Meyer is confident as he looks to the future.

“A fair number of farmers have left the area as a result of land claims, but this hasn’t made us negative,” he said. “We are here and are facing the challenge. With changes there are always challenges. The most important thing is that we stay positive and look forward.”

Most of the land claims in the Kranskop area have been settled on the “willing seller, willing buyer” principle, and some of the new landowners have already joined the association.The new members include Ithuba Agriculture, Mkhuzangwe Agriculture and Eyethu Management Scheme. They are farming sugar cane and timber. Mkhuzangwe also offers some commercial hunting on its game farm. Timber and sugar cane are the main crops grown in the Kranskop area, although there is also some beef, dairy and vegetable farming.

The Kranskop Farmers’ Association, which was officially constituted in 1908, began because the founding chairman, Dr Proksch, felt it was necessary for the area to have an association specifically for organised agriculture.

His vision resulted in a well-run organisation dedicated to helping its farmers. Secretary for the past 14 years, Gertie Kotze, said: “This is a very well-oiled organisation. We have meetings for all the portfolios, have a representative at Kwanalu (KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union) and members frequently attend workshops and go on tours to other farming areas in the province.

“We have an active fire chief who keeps a tight grip on controlling fires in the area. He is quite strict because he knows how important it is to stick to the rules to prevent fires in winter. We do have fires but they don’t seem to be as bad as those in other areas.

“We also have most of our people on the radio network and do call-ups at 6 am every day. We call everyone on the call list to check they are okay and that the radios are working. The radios are there for security and fires.”

Another of the association’s portfolios is conservancy and security, which controls the contact between the farmers and their security company, Buffalo Protection Services, arranges game counts in the area and ensures that guards keep a look out for snares and any game which has been killed.

Members also make use of the community-based operations room — G911 — in Greytown which can be used to reach paramedics, Eskom, Telkom and the police in an emergency.

One project which proved to be a mixed blessing for the organisation was the building of the Kranskop Farmers’ Association Hall. According to Kotze, who has been working on a history of the association, farmers in the area raised £1 400 to build the hall, believing that the agricultural department would contribute pound for pound collected. But in 1920 they were told that because the association did not hold shows it was not eligible for a government grant. But after a change in policy it was announced in 1922 that no funds were available for grants even if the requirements to hold shows regularly were met.

So, the farmers had to build the hall with the funds they had available and an overdraft of £1 000 guaranteed by the chairman Mr W. Surendorff and four other members of the association. Over the years the hall continued to be a financial burden but eventually in June 1944 the hall was finally paid for.

In 1966 the hall was donated to the Kranskop health committee, now Umzinyathi Muncipality, to use as a community hall. The farmers still make use of the facility from time to time for meetings but for larger functions they use a hall at St Catherine’s Golf Estate, which is owned by Piet Nel, the man in charge of the association’s environment and tourism portfolio.

And the golf estate will be one of two venues used by the association for its centenary celebrations on October 18. The farmers will enjoy a golf day, while their partners watch a jewellery demonstration. The children will be entertained with a jumping castle.

In the evening there will be a dinner with a 1908 theme at the Hermannsburg church hall and

a talk by guest speaker Robin Barnsley of Kwanalu, entitled “Agriculture in the Future”. Entertainment will be provided by panpipes players Ryan Walt and Steven Sherling. At both venues there will be a display focusing on the

history of the association.

Earlier this year, the association hosted an under-21 soccer day at the Kranskop School as part of the centenary celebrations.

“We prepared the field, sponsored the teams, got other sponsors to cover the kit and we presented trophies and R1 000 to the winners and R500 to the runners-up,” Meyer said.

Other events which have been run by the organisation this year include a mountain bike classic and an enduro hare scramble.

kfa history

SOME of the key events in the history of the Kranskop Farmers’ Association.

• The first Kranskop Annual Show was held on August 9, 1923. The official opening took place at 10.30 am with W. A. Deane, Minister of Agriculture, and a banquet was held at the hotel after the first day, but no women were allowed although they did all the work.

• The prolonged drought of 1923 and 1924, the expanding wattle industry (which was plagued by pests for which there was no remedy), the fact that wattle bark was fetching £4 and £5 per ton, were matters discussed at the 1925 annual general meeting. The annual problem of the lack of water in the village was also brought up, with members complaining that their oxen after trekking for distances of 16 to 24 kilometres hauling heavy loads could not get a drink in the village.

• In 1929, the cattle industry was plagued by the outbreak of east coast fever and very stringent dipping procedures were enforced. The movement of cattle from one area to another was very strictly controlled and some roads were closed to the movement of cattle altogether.

• The “white gold” rush swept through the KwaZulu-Natal midlands in the mid-sixties and everyone went crazy over sugar, although some people warned growers to stay with timber.

• Eskom power was introduced in 1967 — previous to this coal-fired steam generators were used.

• 1980 saw the worst drought in history — only seven inches of rain was recorded the entire season in some areas of the district. Stock farmers expressed concern that they did not have enough food during the winter season.

• In 1983 a rosy future for wattle was predicted. It was also expected that by the end of that year the farmers would not be able to supply enough timber for the market. The wattle boom was on.

• Extremely high winds were experienced on May 16, 1984. Roofs were blown off buildings and the winds caused fires which burned down 22 homes and raged through sugar cane causing damage valued at R250 000.

• On February 7, 1985 an organised protest march in Pietermaritzburg was planned. Many farmers of the area took part in the protest against the crippling and continual price hikes.

• The 1999 season was a difficult fire season, with winds, heat and drought.

• 2000/2001 — Foot and mouth disease saw farmers conducting road blocks until late at night, spraying and checking vehicles.

current office bearers of KFA

THE current members of the Kranskop Farmers’ Association committee are:

• president — Gunther Meyer;

• vice president and radio communications network chairman — Heino Düvel;

• conservancy/security — Geoff Newlands;

• tourism/environment — Piet Nel;

• fire chief — Rolf Königkrämer; and

• committee members — Karl-Heinz Düvel, George Maharaj, Dougal Maclean.

community projects

THE Kranskop Farmers’ Association has always been involved with projects to improve the lives of those in the community. Here are just a few of them:

• a school in Lootshoek was painted, windows were put in, doors were fixed and blackboards were put up.

• at a school in Potspruit, stationery, books, maps and atlases were handed over to the staff.

• the association has sent farmworkers to the Wildlife and Environment Society (Wessa) of South Africa for training.

• members went on farm tours to the then Eastern Transvaal and Swaziland in 1984.

• staff who work in the fire towers are given food hampers and meat at a special meeting in November.

• Christmas gifts are given to community-based operations room, G911, staff.

• a braai is held at the end of the year for the security company staff to thank them for their contribution and hard work during the year.

• a braai is held for the police to thank them for their co-operation during the year.

• the association organises workshops for its members and anyone in farming regarding important issues, such as unemployment insurance and labour practices.

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