Eskom, CHDM blamed for failed vegetable project

A vegetable incubation project meant to benefit hundreds of needy families in Komani and surrounding areas has collapsed with nothing to show for the R9-million poured into it.

Blame for the project’s failure has been placed squarely on Eskom and the Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) for not supplying it with electricity and water.

The project was funded by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa) and the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD).

In July last year, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu launched the project with the aim of assisting cooperatives to plant seedlings, including spinach and tomatoes.

The cooperatives would then sell the seedlings to primary production sites in Cala and Braakloof near Whittlesea.

The vegetables from the sites were supposed to be sent to a packing house which would then sell them to the market, including retail stores.

The Chris Hani Cooperative Development Centre (CDC) was also expected to give business and technical training to the cooperatives as a way of better capacitating them.

CDC executive director Abongile Hala said primary production centres in Cala and Braakloof cost R4-million each while a nursery in Ezibeleni cost R1-million to erect.

“The failure of one of these to operate affects the entire value chain. The nursery cannot make money because it is not selling and the primary production sites have no seedlings to plant and sell,” he said.

Hala said R4-million for the Cala primary production centre was funded by ECDC and Sefa, another R4-million for the Braakloof primary production centre by Sefa while DSBD funded the R1-million for the nursery.

“CHD was supposed to provide the nursery with water while Eskom was supposed to install electrical installation points. The nursery needs water and electricity to operate,” Hala said.

CHD had funded the renovation of the building in which CDC operates. Hala said the aim was to have an integrated “agri-business” production site. He said CDC had more than 2000 cooperatives on its database.

“The aim of this approach to the development of cooperatives is to ensure maximum participation in value chain for the previously disadvantaged,” Hala said, adding that the department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism was one of the funders.

CHDM spokeswoman Thobeka Mqamelo had not responded to e-mailed questions at the time of writing yesterday.

Eskom provincial spokesman Zama Mpondwana said he would only be able to comment this week. — zoliles@dispatch.co.za

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