Agricultural Transformation projects to be driven by Upper Midlands Role-players

In October 2014, the Upper Midlands Agricultural Transformation Initiative (UMATI), a non-profit organisation (NPO), was established by the Mooi-Mpofana, Nottingham and Kamberg agricultural associations to champion transformation in the agricultural and tourism sectors, where commercial farmers are committed to mentor emerging farmers and rural communities through facilitating socio-economic development initiatives.

This will be done through strategic institutional support of various transformation projects, infrastructural development and education.

UMATI has forged a partnership with Lima Rural Development Foundation, which specialises in integrated rural development, and is supported by Mpofana Local Municipality and Kwanalu.

On the 29th and 30th November 2014, various projects within the Lower and Upper Midlands areas were visited by the Honourable MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Cyril Xaba. The two-day tour enabled UMATI to showcase some of the potential initiatives that require technical and financial support.

Grateful for the exposure, the MEC expressed that UMATI and DARD would have to work together in commercialising agriculture. He said, “My dream is promote [an] inclusive agricultural sector and ensure that all role players are committed to this process…everyone should ensure that this vision succeeds. If it fails, we will all fail.”

His department is committed to engage with the commercial and emerging farmers in order to grow the agricultural sector. Throughout the tour, he strongly emphasised that communities which acquired land through land reform programmes such as the Middelrus farms must learn to separate land ownership from the business.

“I am going to be intolerant to have land that is lying fallow and being unproductive,” he stressed.

Clear value chain of agricultural produce, agro-processing and linkages with the exporting market would have to be explored. He further committed his Acting HOD Jabu Majola, Chief Director Theo van Rooyen and District Director of Pietermaritzburg Daya Chetty to engage with UMATI as soon as possible in order to develop an action plan to address the challenges being experienced in this area.

UMATI appreciated the MEC’s commitment and intended support, although it acknowledged that the proposed initiatives are not going to succeed overnight as lots of funds will need to be injected.

UMATI feels that the dam construction for irrigation purposes is crucial in this whole process. The commercial farmers have made the initial financial contributions to the value of R4 million and require approximately R3.5 million to complete an Environmental Impact Assessment.

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Pictured: (L-R) Richard Bates, member of UMATI; James Kean, member of UMATI; Honourable Cyril Xaba, KZN MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development; Futhi Sibeko, Director at Lima Rural Development Foundation; Graham Armstrong, member of UMATI and Duncan Stewart, Managing Director of Lima Rural Development Foundation.