2 December, 2015
Farming project in Ugie growing in strength and
A flagship Eastern Cape
farming project is set to quadruple in size - and significantly increase its
employment potential - after its patron, leading SA diversified timber company
PG Bison, committed to extend land provided to the project by 6.5 hectares. Plans are also already afoot to formalise the 13
employees of the Ugie Agricultural Social Project (UASP) into a co-operative
business, placing the ownership and decision making power firmly in local
PG Bison started the farming
project in 2014 in partnership with the Joe Gqabi District Municipality, to
both create employment and provide food security for local townships.
was part of a broader collaboration between the company and the provincial and
local governments, that has seen a total investment of more than R2.1 billion
injected into the Elundini Local Municipality (Ugie / Maclear) since 2013. This
amount includes the cost of PG Bison's new board plant (constructed at R1.3
billion), occupying 36 hectares of the 64-hectare site, as well as other
surrounding infrastructure and services.
The initial 1.5 hectare section made available for
the farming project is part of a larger piece of disused farmland found not to
be suitable for forestry. This is now to be enlarged to 8 hectares.
Committed to sustainable
Mr Gerhard Victor, PG Bison's CEO, emphasised that
the farming project is one of an array
of corporate social investment initiatives whereby the company uses its
footprint to economically empower locals.
To provide support services for the Ugie plant alone,
2 000 job opportunities have been created among 30 local, black-owned
businesses. More than 80% of the labour and ownership in these businesses is
"What a joy to see locals literally dig in and come
up with a farming venture that has the promise of creating significant
employment and addressing food security. This is locally driven, sustainable
"And we are committed to play our part to make this
work. That is why we have decided to enlarge the tract of land provided to the
Victor says timber plants and
plantations are ideally situated to contribute to economic development as they
are by definition situated in rural areas.
"It goes without saying that
these areas face significant challenges in education, healthcare and
employment. Many forestry companies - including PG Bison - are making
investments in ways that stimulate locally owned small enterprise development,"
Flagship farm is "everybody's project
Working with his hands in the
soil that his ancestors used to cultivate, is a spiritual process for Mr Julius
Toli, ward committee member and member of the farming project.
The fact that the small farm has
turned into a veritable Garden of Eden within only one year, supplying the
local hospitality industry with roughly 50 000 heads of cabbage, 5 000 spinach
plants and hundreds of heads of broccoli, cabbage and other veggies, is a
was tasked to help find the initial employees to get the farming venture off
the ground. He made sure that he invited participants from all areas of the
local township, "because it is everybody's project."
the current thirteen employees, only three have some level of schooling and
only Toli has matriculated.
farm has not only provided salaries for its employees but has also been able to
generate enough savings that this year's seeds and fertilizer could be bought
in cash. Self-sustainability is, therefore, within reach.
project is really working. In this first year they really tested us, but we
farm has a place in people's hearts. They enjoy it and it has made a change in
our community already. And the feedback we get is that our veg is of a better
quality than anything in town."
Yearning for growth
yearns for more than vegetables, though. He wants to see the farm extended so
more people can be employed. This, he says, will not just put food on tables,
but restore the community's dignity.
is huge for us to be working the land. If we can get more land, we will
Tony Tegg, PG Bison's nursery manager, who doubles up as supervisor and trainer
for the farming initiative, is currently engaging with the project's team to
determine how many full-time employment oportunities the farm can sustain.
may not be as easy as saying that each hectare can sustain 13 people. But we
will definitely be able to sustain more jobs; especially when it comes to
harvesting seasonal crops."
Bison at a glance
PG Bison is a South African
company, with South African owners and headquartered in Wynberg, Johannesburg.
The company is a subsidiary of KAP Industrial Holdings, a Level 3 B-BBEE
Its board plants and plantations
(it owns 89 000 hectares of land, 41 100 of which is afforested) are scattered
across Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape provinces.
Although the company is a
significant employer with close to 1 800 people on its payroll, thousands more
are employed by small businesses that provide supporting services to its
Source: PG Bison