Tongaat Hulett Supports 16 Students
Tongaat Hulett Supports 16 Students in Sugarcane Agriculture Course
A total of 16 students recently attended the Junior Certificate Course in sugarcane agriculture facilitated by the South African Sugar Research Institute (SASRI), the majority of whom come from uMlalazi and King Cetshwayo Municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, as a result of funding secured by Tongaat Hulett.
Nkonzo Mhlongo, Tongaat Hulett Corporate Affairs Executive, said there is a growing concern that many people, particularly young people have become disenchanted with agriculture and prefer to pursue careers that are seemingly more sophisticated.
“Farming is often viewed as an old-fashioned industry, full of struggling farmers who are unable to feed themselves and their families. As a result, engaging youth and ordinary community members on issues related to agriculture is a key priority for Tongaat Hulett, the various stakeholders within the sugar industry and many governments departments.
“Within the sugarcane growing areas, most people engaged in the agricultural sector are growers, members of co-operatives or beneficiaries under the land restitution programme. As such, they have an appreciation that sugarcane agriculture provides economic benefits while also creating employment opportunities for other people within their communities. It also allows them to address issues of household food insecurity through the establishment of food gardens,” she said.
In November last year, Tongaat secured R377 292 in funding to ensure that 16 people attended the certificate course, with the students recommended for the course having been seconded by the co-operatives and communities.
Mhlongo said that despite the general decline in interest in agriculture as a career, there were still community members – particularly young people – who were keen on pursuing studies and attending empowerment workshops within this field. “Tongaat Hulett supports co-operative members and land reform communities by facilitating their exposure to sugarcane agriculture through SASRI.”
The November training was also attended by 3 young people from the Ubizo Communal Property Association (CPA). In 2018, the CPA signed a lease agreement with Tongaat Hulett which had several objectives, including accelerating sugarcane development in the lease area; fostering socio-economic development programmes; and supporting and implementing education, capacity building and training programme for the community.
Mhlongo said it was under the banner of education, capacity building and training that Tongaat ensured that some of these young people from Ubizo were included in the training programme. “The total area under sugarcane under the CPA is some 1 749 hectares. It is therefore important to ensure that more and more community members are encouraged to pursue agriculture as a career. It will contribute to the social and economic wellbeing of the overall municipality,” she said.
Siphamandla Mbokazi is one of the 16 students to have received the Junior Certificate Course in sugarcane agriculture
Siphamandla Mbokazi (27), the son of a medium scale farmer in Tongaat, also attended the course. Mbokazi works with his father on a 94 hectare farm which he acquired in 1997. In 2020/21, the father and son duo delivered a total of 2 000 tons of sugarcane.
Mbokazi said agriculture was initially not his first love. “However, the more I engaged with my father, the more I got to appreciate the importance of agriculture in promoting rural livelihoods,” he said.
Mbokazi is currently working on his father’s farm as a supervisor. “During the three weeks of attending the course I enjoyed all the modules, but botany and sugar varieties were the most interesting. I believe that agriculture is key to local economic development.”
One of the participants in the training course was Mduduzeni Shobede, a 60-year-old Chairperson and field supervisor from the Mngampondo co-operative, who has been part of the co-operative since inception. Shobede was part of the delegation with the guidance of Inkosi Biyela that approached Tongaat Hulett to resuscitate this scheme with the support of the grant funding secured from The Jobs Fund. He was also part of the delegation that engaged with Ingonyama Trust to ensure that the community secured a favorable lease.
Shobede said: “I have long recognised that agriculture was the backbone of our economy and of communities. People need agriculture to provide for their families. I took the decision, at my age, to attend the course because I wanted to develop my knowledge in agriculture. The knowledge that I have gained will put the Mngampondo project in a better position than before. It will also assist me in carrying out my duties as a field supervisor. The modules that I enjoyed the most were botany and the management modules.”
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