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Sundays River Farming Trust

Buyiswa (Steri) Ndyenga is the General Manager of four of the farms held within the Sundays’ River Farming Trust, as well as the Trust’s recently acquired Siyaphambile Farm. She is a beneficiary of the Sundays’ River Farming Trust and has worked her way up to this position from humble beginnings. Based at the SRCC (Sundays’ River Citrus Company) Primary Production offices near Addo, Buyiswa has years of experience, and her office is filled with the trophies and accolades that mark the successes in her career. In 2015 she won the National Female Entrepreneur Award in the Export Market division.

Buyiswa was born in Somerset East, and at the age of three moved to Addo with her family and grew up on Willow Tree Farm. She attended primary school in Addo and Masiphathisane High School in Motherwell for Standard 7 and 8.

“I could not finish high school as my parents could not afford to keep me at school. I came back to the farm and looked after my younger brother. I started working on the farm when I was 24. My first job was scouting for pests and diseases in the orchards and I later also did administration. In 1994 I was appointed as a permanent worker and in 2000 I was appointed as a team supervisor.”

The Sundays’ River Farming Trust was established in 2007 and consisted of four farms in the Sundays River Valley, namely: Willow Tree, Glengrove, Eendracht and Siyathema. These properties were bought from their previous owners by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in 2006. The land is owned by the government and leased to the Sundays’ River Farming Trust. Sundays River Citrus Company has a management agreement with the Sundays’ River Farming Trust and, working together with a number of the trust’s beneficiaries who are in management positions, is responsible for the day to day management of the farms.

Buyiswa was appointed as the assistant farm manager at Willow Tree in 2007, and when the farm manager at the time, Johan Troskie, resigned in 2011, she was appointed as the farm manager at Willow Tree in 2012. Willow Tree is 120ha in total with approximately 100ha of citrus. In 2014 Buyiswa was appointed as the General Manager of the four farms.

“We have 56 permanent workers and during peak times we have up to 450 seasonal workers.”

She is also a member of the Lower Sundays River Water Users’ Association and serves on the Association’s Management Committee.

“In March 2015 we started the company within the Sundays’ River Farming Trust called Sikhula Sonke Enterprises (Pty) Ltd. After the government bought the original four farms, a moratorium was introduced in 2010 on the sale of government owned farms to beneficiaries. This should be lifted at some point in the future and in preparation for this, we (the beneficiaries of the Sundays’ River Farming Trust) put money aside every year so that we will have the funds available to buy our farms when this happens.”

“In 2012 we heard that there was a lucerne farm for sale in the valley near Addo. At that stage we had R7.4 million in our loan account. We needed a further R4 million which we were able to borrow from SRCC. We were thus able to buy the farm and the sale went through in 2012. The farm is 117ha in size and we have renamed it Siyaphambile, which means ‘We are going forward.’ The farm has water rights for 100 hectares which is sufficient for our needs.”

Phase One of the development programme began in 2014.

“We had planned to plant 28ha of lemons but instead we planted 23ha of citrus, built a storage dam, a house and a farm shed on the remaining 5ha. We were able to finance Phase One with the profits we had made from the other farms. The Department of Agriculture provided us with fertiliser for the young trees that we had planted in Phase One.”

“For Phase Two we are planning to plant 37ha of lemons. The Department of Agriculture provided a grant of R1.2 million towards the installation of the irrigation system. There are 29 beneficiaries in our group and we all work very well together. The Manager of the farm is Sandile Gxoyiya. The other beneficiaries who were previously assistant managers on the four original farms are now managers of these farms. The four farms together now have 350ha of citrus under cultivation. We work with the SRCC production managers. They assist us with the technical side of production and packing and marketing of our own fruit.”

“SRCC services 106 growers and we are part of this group. We (Sikhula Sonke) also assist other small farms in the area that are not part of the Sundays’ River Farming Trust. We provide crop protection spraying services as well as picking their fruit for them during the harvest.”

In 2015 Buyiswa entered the Department of Agriculture’s Female Entrepreneur Awards competition. She won the Export and Overall categories for the Western District, both locally (R35,000) and provincially (R325,000), and represented the Eastern Cape in the national competition in KZN winning the Export category (R250,000). The prize money was used to buy farming implements for the farming business.

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“This was truly beyond my wildest dreams as I never thought that something like this would happen to me.”

“When you start farming with citrus you must have both capital and support. This is a very risky type of farming. We could be hit by hail at any time. We have been very fortunate to have the support of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Land Reform and also a commercial entity such as SRCC and support like this could mean the difference between success and failure for a beginner farmer.

“I must also thank all my colleagues and fellow beneficiaries for their support as well as all our permanent and temporary workers. I did not win these competitions because of me but because of all of us. We can only achieve what we do by working together. As a group we also need to thank CRI for their support, particularly our local CRI extension officer Melton Malaudzi.”

“Most of us in my generation did not have the opportunity to finish our secondary schooling but we have learned from the ground up.”