Luthando Trust Farm

Nokwanele Ivy Mzamo is the General Manager of Luthando Trust Farm, a 139ha citrus farm near Kirkwood in the Sundays River. Luthando is managed in partnership with the Sundays River Citrus Company (SRCC) and SRCC also packs and markets their fruit. She started working at Luthando as a general worker in 1996 and is also a beneficiary of the trust that owns the farm. In 2014 she was the National Overall Winner of the Female Farmer of the Year competition.

Nokwanele grew up and attended school in the Northern Cape at Philiptown near De Aar. She left school in grade 10, and in 1988 moved to the Eastern Cape at the age of 18 to look for work.

“I met my husband here and we got married but he has since passed away. My first job was at the SRCC (Sundays’ River Citrus Company) packhouse and I worked there from 1991 to 1996. I then worked here on the farm as a general worker. I enjoyed working here and we received extensive skills development training over several years.”

The Luthando Workers’ Trust was established in 2003 when 35 of the farm’s permanent workers with their spouses bought a 75% share in the established farm with a total size of 139ha and 109ha of citrus. They were able to purchase this share in the property through a R5.8 million grant from the LRAD (Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development) funding scheme of the Department of Land Affairs. Together with government funding they also borrowed the outstanding amount from the Land Bank, to contribute towards the purchase price.

“At the time of purchase the farm was called Brandwacht and we renamed it Luthando, which means ‘Beloved’. Between 2004 and 2008 I worked as an assistant manager and during this time received further skills development training, including taking part in a comprehensive management development programme course, which included both occupational skills and life skills training. The Department of Agriculture offered training and sourced good service providers, and we received learnerships from Skills for Africa, which was funded by Albert Hein, a Dutch supermarket that is one of the receivers of our citrus.”

There were 70 beneficiaries of the trust at the start of the project, which has now decreased to 47 beneficiaries. Of this number 16 people are actively involved with working on the farm and they receive salaries like workers that are not beneficiaries. Some of the beneficiaries have passed away and others have sold their shares. The current owners who are not involved have kept their shares in order to receive dividends, which are paid when there has been a profit, as is the usual practice.

“I was Production Manager on the farm from 2008, and in 2013 I was appointed General Manager by the farm management board. When I was appointed as General Manager this was a huge step for me, but with the support I received from the rest of the management board we have been coping very well with managing the farm.”

Nokwanele has entered the Female Farmer of the Year competition since 2009, and in both 2009 and 2012 reached the provincial level of the competition. In 2014 she was successful in reaching the national level and won first prize in both the Export and Overall categories. The prize money was R750 000 in total!

“This was very exciting for me. We were able to buy a bulldozer/front end loader, which has been extremely useful and has saved us a lot in machinery hire costs.”

“When we received the farm it had 109ha of orchards in production and since then we have planted a further 18 hectares. We have planted Afourers, M7 and B17 Navels which help us to stretch the season later for a longer harvest to supply the market demand for late citrus. During the harvest we have between 180 and 200 people working here.”

“Looking back I could never have dreamed of where I am today. I grew up without any idea of agriculture or horticulture. When I first arrived here we were renting accommodation from the Brandwacht owner Hermanus Potgieter, who inspired me to find out about the production chain. I started working here as a marker. I speak Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and Sotho and so from the start could help Mr Potgieter with translation.

“I have 3 children; a daughter aged 26 and 2 sons aged 22 and 19. My daughter works as a payroll clerk at SRCC in primary production, my older son is working at SRCC packhouse and helps on the farm during off-season, and my younger son is studying at NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University).”

“My advice to youngsters considering a career in agriculture is to approach agriculture with a positive mind set. Food security is in agriculture and we urgently need young people to become involved. We need youngsters who we can teach the farming process to, and to whom we can pass on this business.”

“As women, we have shown through experience that we can do anything we put our minds to. Your attitude to tackling the challenge must be correct because although you will fall down at times, you must just get up and finish what you started.”

“I want to thank our management and staff for their support because without each of them we would not be able to produce our fruit and have the business we have today. I would also like to thank Mr Potgieter for his patience and guidance through the transformation process. At the time when the farm was sold and he was mentoring us he told me that he did not sleep at night because he worried about the farm and our future. He said: ‘Nokwanele, one day you will understand’. For me that day has already come and now I am the one who does not sleep at night. We invited him to our 10 years of ownership celebration in 2013 and it was wonderful to see him again.”

“I also want to thank Philip du Plessis of SRCC Primary Production. He was a mentor and a father to us. Thanks also to Clive Duckworth who worked here for a few years and was also a great help.”

“Government has provided us with ongoing support and training. We have also received grants of infrastructure and fertilizer and crop protection chemicals. I also want to thank the Citrus Growers Development Chamber for their interest and assistance, and also CRI and Melton Mulaudzi for the regular CRI workshops as we always learn a lot from these.”

“I also want to thank my family for their understanding and giving me the space to do my job as I have needed to over the years. I am a single mother and it has not always been easy for them to share me with my demanding job.”

“Lastly and most importantly I must thank God for his providence. I grew up without a father as he had passed away when we were very young. I was one of 5 children and as it was very tough on my mother to raise us, I thought that God did not love us. Today I know differently!”

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