In partnership with the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), the Lebombo Secondary Cooperative in Mpumalanga has brought together 29 primary cooperatives to produce cotton that is used for clothing and animal feed. The NEF has already supported the cooperative with R7.4 million to do a feasibility study on whether the gin will succeed.
The cotton is sold at the Loskop Ginnery where it is processed. “The primary cooperatives use 3 000 hectares to produce the cotton. At the peak of the harvest in 2016 we were able to produce 2 million kilograms of raw cotton,” said Petros Sithole, Chairperson of the Lebombo Secondary Cooperative.
He added that the primary cooperatives are made up of 1 188 farmers who employ seasonal 4 500 employees during the November to May planting and harvesting period. Women represent 63% of the workers.
The cooperative is looking to expand its operations by opening its own gin where it will process the cotton it produces. A cotton gin is a machine used for cleaning cotton of its seeds. Emmanuel Mohlamme from NEF said the decision to build a gin for the farmers is to assist the cooperative to make a profit.
“The Lebombo Cotton Gin company is 51% owned by us while the other 49% is owned by the NEF. At the moment the NEF is doing studies of which land will be suitable to build the gin on,” explained Sithole.