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Eksteenskuil Agricultural Cooperative model breaking barriers

By Mzansi Agriculture Talk Posted 16 April 2021

Lower Orange River Valley is situated in the depths of Northern Cape, huddled outside Keimoes 45km away from Upington. Known for its table grape and raisins production, a farming community called Eksteenskuil is breaking all barriers.

According to Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform, the Eksteenskuil Agricultural Cooperative (EAC) showed commitment to producing quality raisins grapes since 2006.

“Following a comprehensive consultative process, the Eksteenskuil Agricultural Co-operative (EAC) was registered in December 2006. To date, estimated production of grapes in the EAC is between 400 and 1200 tons per year depending on weather conditions” said the regional district manager responsible for the project Christo Smit.

The total area of land comprises of 2000 ha of which 629 ha was under irrigation.

Pieter Van Wyk, was one of the pioneers of EAC who lobbied strongly for government and private sector intervention.

“In 2012, government and the private sector joined hands with us and funded EAC operations with the proviso that is must be managed professionally guided by basic business principles. We currently have 112 active members who sit on various board committees” he said.

Government grant support is paid directly to the EAC account which bodes well for their corporate governance.

“We have grown independently as a cooperative as in the 2019/2020 financial year we managed to construct trellis system from our own coffers” said Gerrie Louw a board member of EAC.

The model of EAC seemed to debunk the myth that cooperatives cannot function in a coordinated manner and be successful at the same. Jayde Loxton, a youth raisins grapes farmer, is one of the beneficiaries birthed by the project.

“Success of the EAC simply lies in collective decision making and bargaining power (procurement of production inputs and sales of produce) of all us members. We believe in the ethos of a collaboration for the benefit of our community.”

Primary to the sustainability of the cooperative is the use of machinery supplied by government in a responsible form.

Smit concurs with the sentiment that EAC members are one of the most disciplined cooperatives he has worked with even superseding targets.

“Remember that the Eksteenskuil community allocated members land and those under EAC have exhausted their land and were looking to co-opt others members of the community to expand production.”

Annually, EAC invites interested community members to join production, with those acceding to the request provided with inputs and machinery.

Louw said it was one of the pillars of EAC to grow and increase its yield for exports. “Raisins produced by EAC members are recognized as being of a very high quality and we have been informed that we produce one of the niche products in the world.”

EAC has membership in Raisin SA and the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI), meaning it contributes a percentage to horticultural exports. It supplies its produce to cellars and raisins companies.

Currently, the cooperative employs on average 800 people per season from pruning until harvesting. Each farmer has 2 or 3 permanent workers.

Raisins SA granted bursaries to 5 youth from Eksteenskuil community to study agriculture as a way to ensure that baton passes to the next generation.


Mandela Day 2020

“For Eksteenskuil Small scale farmers Nelson Mandela is about giving back to the less fortunate in any way. It is also a day that reminds us to celebrate the life of Tata Nelson Mandela and to be grateful for everything he has done that contributes to the 26-year democracy we have.

The directors of the board of Eksteenskuil and farmers gave there 67 minutes to the poorest of the poor in Gammacor in Keimoes by contributing soup and bread for ±450 people.

Nelson Mandela Day not only celebrates Nelson Mandela’s life, but it is also a global call to action for people to recognize their ability to have a positive effect on others around them. The day hopes to inspire people to embrace the values that Mandela shared. These values include democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation, and respect.

We would like to thanks Spar and Raisins SA for there generous contribution to the Eksteenskuil Agricultural cooperative and its members by making the 67 minutes for Madiba sensasionele.



Raison project helps struggling farmers

Raison project helps struggling farmers

 

Die Burger 9 Dec 2016 Samantha van den Berg

Grapes along the Orange river are dried in the sun to make raisons. (Photo as illustration.)

 

 

Earl Loxton

 

 

 

The completion of an empowering project through which 55 small-scale farmers were trained and 220ha of raison grapes were established is one of the highlights in the dry-fruit industry.

The project was launched four years ago in the Eksteenskuil Farmers Community in Keimoes, with the help from the Dry Fruit Technical Services (Hortgro).

According to Mr Dappie Smit, manager of DFTS, a total of 220 ha raison grapes were planted at 55                                         small-scale farmers Eksteenskuil.

DFTS initiated and managed the project together with help from several other organisations who rendered services and who helped to finance the R25 million that were needed to run the project.

National Treasury also contributed through the Jobs Fund about R18 million to the project.

The struggling small-scale farmers were already producing raisons along the Orange River, but due to lack of knowledge, lack of technical training, support and no access to markets, they could not achieve their full commercial potential.

According to Mr Smit 220 ha raison grapes were planted over three years after proper soil preparation was done.  DFTS supervised and gave advise during the establishment phase.

Chris Krone, a former fruit producer of Tulbagh and consultant in the fruit industry was involved in drawing up the business plan for the project.

Earl Loxton a raison and wine grape producer and a beneficiary of DTS’s empowerment project received the South African Fruit Industry’s price for the best beginner.

According to a statement, Loxton started about five years back when he took over on plot 593 in Eksteenskuil.  The land was not profitable and the established vines was old and neglected.  Loxton started to revive the old vines and established new vines.  Today he has 35 ha established raison grapes and 7,5 ha wine grapes on the plot. He also established an additional 9,3 ha raison grapes with help from the DFTS project.

Loxton has a diploma in agriculture from the Elsenburg Agricultural College outside Stellenbosch.



AWARDS & ACCREDITATIONS

EAC is FAIRTRADE Accredited

EAC is FAIRTRADE Accredited

Eskom Business Investment Award

Eskom Business Investment Award

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