This weekend saw the launch of the South African Farmers Development Association (Safda) in Gingindlovu.
The organisation aims to be the voice of black farmers in the sugar cane industry, who previously had not been heard.
This comes in the wake of many black farmers walking out of the South African Cane Growers Association in 2015 after complaining that the concerns of small growers were not being addressed.
Bheki Cele, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said: “Time for change has come. Grower capacity development will make a huge impact in an industry where white farmers have been dominating.”
Cele said it was the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to ensure that land was returned to its rightful owners and that black farmers went into profitable partnerships which would help boost the South African economy.
Siyabonga Madlala, chief executive of the organisation, said this was an opportunity for small-scale farmers to make a substantial contribution to the economy.
The organisation had more than 2 500 members in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
“While this launch was to celebrate recognition by the SA Sugar Association, this industry faces lack of access to sustainable development/commodity finance. It was also to inform potential investors and sponsors of the many challenges, high input costs (chemicals and seeds), economies of scale, unsustainable operations and lack of access to funding,” Madlala said.
Busi Ngidi is one farmer who is hoping to become part of Safda.
The 54-year-old said that working with Safda, other small-scale farmers would help her and others like her when it came to negotiating prices for key agricultural inputs like manure and pesticide.
“Transport is our biggest cost and sometimes, by the time we are able to transport goods, it is well past harvest time and the goods are rotting.”
The mother of two, who lives and farms at Mfume, on the South Coast, said she currently worked on a 3000ha piece of land. “It takes up all of my time and sometimes I do not have time to spend with my children as I am always in the field. But the land has a lot of potential,” she said.
Ngidi, who employs 20 people, said that being part of Safda would help her to give better pay to her employees, who also have families to feed.