Taste of sweet success

2015-11-23 10:29
Thembilihle Mzila stands outside her house overlooking her sugar cane fields and the surrounding land near Noodsberg.

Thembilihle Mzila stands outside her house overlooking her sugar cane fields and the surrounding land near Noodsberg.

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Pietermaritzburg - An innovative initiative is improving the lives of small-scale Noodsberg sugar farmers, enabling one to send her daughter to university next year.

Thembilihle Mzila, a small sugar cane farmer in the area, has seen her resources grow exponentially through an initiative of Fairtrade Sugar South Africa and Noodsberg Illovo Sugar.

The project has resulted in the upliftment of 230 small-scale sugar farmers in KwaZulu-Natal through the promotion of self-sustaining agriculture.

Fairtrade, a 30-year-old international ethics certification brand, started work with local small-scale farmers recently in an effort to grow their resources and economic status.

The project, run in partnership with Illovo Sugar, focuses on sustainable agriculture in small-scale farming communities, as well as uplifting the economic statuses of the farmers.

Fairtrade South Africa director Arianna Baldo said Fairtrade had become a recognisable ethical certification brand in Europe and recently saw an opportunity to market its brand in South Africa, starting with small-scale sugar farmers.

“Our goal is to improve their economic circumstances and develop their farms,” she said.

“Whenever Illovo sells one ton of the sugar grown by the farmers, the farmers are given R600. All that money will go to them for whatever they need — schooling, equipment and so on.

“Sugar with our brand on it will be available in a few weeks and we have secured Cadbury as a buyer of the product,” she said.

The sugar produced by small-scale farmers in line with Fairtrade’s strict ethics will be branded with the Fairtrade sticker as a quality product that has been grown with minimal chemicals. Companies and people buying the product will be supporting the KwaZulu-Natal small-scale farming community.

The initiative was pitched to traditional leaders and their communities, and those who agreed formed the Sakh’okuhle Farmers Primary Co-operative Limited and Inzwakhle Trading Enterprise Primary Co-operative Limited. The co-operatives source staff from their communities to work the farms and help with harvesting, planting and maintenance.

Mzila, the Inzwakhle Co-operative chairperson, said she was able to completely renovate her house through the initiative, turning it into her “dream home”.

She said she would now be able to put her daughter, who is currently writing her matric exams, through university next year.

“They taught me everything and trained me and I am doing well.

Mzila, who was trained by Illovo, will start receiving more money when the Fairtrade certification becomes official and Cadbury starts buying her and other small-scale farmers’ sugar.

The project currently has 230 local small-scale farmers as members, with many hectares of land still being developed for them to use.

Noodsberg Illovo cane developer Fanie Horn said it was the mill’s social responsibility to help with the upliftment of the local farmers and it had therefore partnered with Fairtrade to improve their business.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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