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Berry Corridor | Essential Oils | Emthonjeni Arts | Abenzi Woodhouse | Bamboo Pilot | Black Wattle Eradication | Agro-Processing: Citrus Initiative

BERRY CORRIDOR

There is a rapidly growing global demand for blueberries due to its various health benefits. Driving blueberry production in the southern hemisphere, including South Africa, is the need for year-round fresh berries.

The development of a berry corridor in the Amathole area started with blueberries after pilot trials showed the Amahlathi area to be suitable for blueberry production.The overall vision of the berry corridor is to become the biggest blueberry producer in the southern hemisphere. The target is to establish over 500ha of blueberries in Amathole by 2020, and develop associated berry processing facilities at Amabele.The berry processing facility planned for Amabele will also cater for other berries produced elsewhere in the Eastern Cape. The development of a Zero Waste Business Cluster at Ndakana aims to compliment the berry corridor development at nearby Amabele Village.

Blueberry production on Thornhill Farm by Amathole Berries (Pty) Ltd

The anchor development in the Eastern Cape berry corridor is Thornhill Farm owned by Amathole Berries (Pty) Ltd.  Amathole Berries, supported by Aspire, Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Eastern Cape provincial government, have started commercial production of blueberries at Thornhill Farm, situated near Ross station, 15km east of Amabele. They aim to plant 200ha with blueberries at Thornhill Farm, with 55ha planted so far.

www.amatholeberries.co.za

The Eastern Cape Deptartment of Roads and Public Works is supporting this initiative with the upgrade and surfacing of the road (DR02779) from Amabele to the R63 passing Ross Station. The work between Amabele and Ross station is expected to be completed in 2013. 

Berry Outgrowers

The Berry Corridor also aims to develop many berry outgrowers in other parts of Amahlathi Municipality to allow for greater community economic empowerment and participation in the production of blueberries by rural communities. Amathole Berries, with their significant berry production experience and market linkages, plays a vital role in the development of sustainable berry outgrowers. In addition, all out growers will have an off-take agreement with the packaging and processing plant at Amabele.

Three large blueberry outgrowers are being established near Keiskammahoek with assistance from Aspire, Amathole Berries and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. Funding was secured from the EU in 2010 to establish three outgrowers, totalling 18ha of blueberry production in the agriculturally rich Keiskamma River valley where many poor rural communities live. The aim is to increase the blueberry production at these three Keiskammahoek outgrowers to 60ha (20ha per outgrower) by 2020. The long term goal is to establish 300ha of large outgrowers at Keiskammahoek.

By October 2012 9ha have been planted in Upper Gxulu. Gxulu Berries currently has 17 permanent employees, all coming from Upper Gxulu Village. Development of further 5ha blueberries at the 2nd out grower, Sinqumeni Berries, is progressing well with nearly all the shade structures complete. Planting of berry plants will only be completed in March 2013 due to capacity problems at the supplier. Aspire has signed a memorandum of understanding with Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry in August 2012 so that the 4ha of blueberries of the 3rd out grower, Iqunube Berries, be develop on Fort Cox land

In addition to the large outgrowers, the berry corridor initiative aims to establish about 250 small out growers throughout the Amahlathi municipal area. Anyone with 1-2 ha of available land, with sufficient access to water, can become a small outgrower. Aspire is working with Amathole Berries, the ECDC and others to develop the required support mechanisms and to establish a revolving fund to provide required funding for small berry outgrowers.

Redevelopment of Amabele Village

Amabele is an old railway station village next to the N6 about 15km southeast of Stutterheim. The aim is to redevelop Amabele Village into a rural service node centered on agro-processing. The anchor development at Amabele will be the Amabele Berry Processing facility. Planning work is jointly underway between Aspire and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation in consultation with Amathole Berries to ensure that by the 2013 harvesting time locally harvested berries can also be processed and packaged locally. It is the intention that all berry out growers in the Amathole region will be given an opportunity to hold shares in the processing facility. This will not only provide processing services, but as well extension and incubation support as well as marketing linkages.

Other development initiatives at Amabele Village include:

  • Amabele station upgrade and revitalisation of the Kei Rail (Eastern Cape Department of Transport).
  • Bamboo processing facility (SABamboo& The Biomass Corporation)
  • Amabele Heat and Power entity (EECOFuels)
  • Organic fruit and vegetable processing.
  • Tourism developments linked to the nearby Wriggleswade dam.

A local spatial development framework (LSDF) for Amabele and surrounding area was developed in 2009, with the Amabele land use management plans currently being developed.

Ndakana Zero Waste Business Cluster

The Ndakana area, situated west of Amabele and south of Stutterheim, comprise of about 6 villages that is home to over 8,000 people. The Amabele LSDF identified the significant agricultural potential that exists in the Ndakana area. A prefeasibility study for a Zero Waste Business Cluster at Ndakana was completed in 2010, to identify and assess agricultural production and processing opportunities in Ndakana and Amabele, that will complement the blueberry farming activities at Thornhill Farm.

(insert links to Ndakana Zero-Waste Pre-Feasibility Study)

Aspire has developed business plans for the most feasible opportunities and is working with public and private development partners to realise these business opportunities. The Ndakana Community Development Trust (NCDT) was established in 2011 to ensure the commercial interests of the whole community will be protected and that the whole community would benefit from the proposed commercial developments at Ndakana and Amabele.  Aspire is working with the Trustees of the NCDT to assist with the realisation of their mandate.

The following opportunities are being implemented in the Ndakana area by Aspire and other development partners:

Business Opportunity

Description

Development Partners(insert hyperlinks to partners’ websites)

Current Status

Ndakana Agro-Ecological Support Cooperative

Upgrade existing household food gardens into highly productive agro-ecological food gardens enabling them to earn approx R3000/month for a 500m2 garden. It is expected that by 2020, more than 1000 households in Ndakana will benefit from this.

Pilot phase targeting 80 households started in Dec 2011.

Ndakana Nguni Beef & Hide Cooperative

Unlock and improve the commercial value of the livestock in the Ndakana community through better veld management, genetic improvement of the herd, establishing market linkages, etc.

  • Eastern Cape Dept of Agriculture (www.agr.ecprov.gov.za)
  • Dohne Agricultural Research
  • UFH Nguni Stud
  • Aspire

Community mobilisation (Pre-implementation)

Ndakana Bee & Honey Cooperative

Unlock the commercial value of the bees in the existing 200ha gum trees at Ndakana and the future 200ha blueberry plants at Thornhill Farm.

Community mobilisation & funding (Pre-implementation)

Ndakana Wood Products Cooperative

Unlock the significant commercial value of the 700ha of jungle wattle and gum trees located in the Ndakana area. About 200ha will be cleared and returned to grazing, 300ha to be replanted with bamboo, and 200ha to be well managed forest plantations of gum, wattle, or other.

Pilot phase: 5ha bamboo planted in Sept 2011. Funding secured for another 100ha. Securing land access currently underway.
Eradication of wattle started in Jan 2012.

Ndakana Fruits Company

Develop high value pomegranates and stone fruit on at least 50ha of old irrigated land in Ndakana

Funding applications.
Lease agreement being developed.

Amabele Combined Heat & Power

Generate renewable energy and heat utilising the wattle, gum and bamboo biomass from the Ndakana area

Funding applications (Pre-implementation)

Ndakana Wind Farm

Establish a 30MW wind farm around Amabele & Ndakana to generate renewable electricity.

Feasibility study underway

Runaway Skills ICT Cooperative

Cooperative formed by Ndakana youths to provide IT training and skills development for local community

Establishment phase

The Ndakana Wood Products Cooperative publicly launched their bamboo activities on 18 September 2012 as part of a broader celebration of World Bamboo Day in East London organised by ECDC.

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