In the 2014/2015 season, the cotton grown in a partnership between small holder farmers along the Olifants River and an established commercial farmer was the best to be processed at Loskop Gin from all points of view. The cotton was clean, of superior quality and the 80 hectares that were planted had yielded a remarkable 405 000kg. “This partnership is in effect our farmer of the year,” says Joseph Kempen, CEO of Loskop Gin.
Jannie Terblanche, the commercial farmer who initiated the scheme, did not set out to grow superior cotton; his vision was to change the future. “My work with emerging farmers is because of what my head told me to do,” he says. “I want my children to have a future in South Africa and I can do that by creating jobs to help break the cycle of poverty around us.”
Being an experienced cotton farmer, Jannie knew that the 80km between Marble Hall and Zebediela next to the river was prime cotton-growing land. “At about 800m above sea level and with access to water, that land is brilliant for cotton,” he says. However, no cotton was being grown there and the unemployment rate was extremely high.
Jannie decided to help change that by entering into a five-year partnership with the kgosi, or tribal chief, of the Elandskraal area. The kgosi immediately saw the benefits of cotton as it is a crop with no theft risk and one that requires many hands to harvest. The two men agreed on the principles of cooperation and in November 2014 planting started.
AfriFert, an agriculture supplies company in Marble Hall, supplied seed, fertiliser and agrochemicals on the understanding that the partnership would pay for it once the harvest was in. The company also supplied technical services, such as soil sampling.
Jannie contributed implements and machinery, as well as his considerable expertise and experience to manage the project and train the community members. The Department of Rural Development, through Cotton SA, contributed financially to the project.
When harvesting started in May, community members were paid R1/kg to pick the cotton. Around 300 people received payment every two weeks for their efforts. “We found that people worked to meet their needs,” says Jannie. “For example, some of the women would pick half a day and then go home to look after their families. The pride with which people received that money was evident.”
Given that cotton is an excellent rotation crop with maize, wheat, vegetables and tobacco, the partnership planted maize in the cotton off-season. Currently, six people are permanently employed at the tribal lands, mainly for security reasons.
As cotton is about to be planted for the new season, Jannie and his partners are looking forward to another bumper crop and a further step out of poverty for hundreds of community members.