ATC160218: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology on its visit to Limpopo from 2 to 3 February 2016, dated 17 February 2016
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology on its visit to Limpopo from 2 to 3 February 2016, dated 17 February 2016.
The Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology (the Committee) visited the Nkowankowa Demonstration Centre (Tzaneen) and the Hi Hanyile Essential Oils and Medicinal Plants Project (Giyani), based in Limpopo. The main purpose of the visit was to ascertain and engage with those involved, to what extent growth, development and employment opportunities were created through the targeted science and technology-based interventions related to the two projects. Furthermore, the Committee was keen to assess the alignment of goals and programmes of the Department of Science and Technology (DST or the Department) with the broader objectives of Government.
The visit to the projects included brief presentations followed by tours of the facilities.
Dr B Goqwana (Chairperson)
Mr C Mathale (ANC)
Mr M Kekana (ANC)
Ms A Tuck (ANC)
The delegation was accompanied by:
Ms S Isaacs (Committee Secretary)
Dr R Osborne-Mullins (Content Adviser)
2. Nkowankowa Demonstration Centre
The Nkowankowa Demonstration Centre was established by the Department to create employment through a local product beneficiation process with funding from the Sector Budget Support Programme of the European Union (EU). The Sector Budget Support Programme is one of the flagship areas of co-operation between South Africa and the EU. Allocated to the Department, the Sector Budget Support Programme focusses on harnessing research and innovation as an instrument for poverty alleviation.
The Nkowankowa Demonstration Centre project is now registered as a propriety limited company under the name Wolkberg Fruit Processors. The project is advancing towards becoming a financially sustainable business and plans to increase production in order to maximise the economic benefit accruing for farmers, households and employees in the Greater Tzaneen Local Municipality area.
Wolkberg Fruit Processors operates from factory premises in Nkowankowa Township in Tzaneen. It is a hybrid of a social business (addressing social needs, such as alleviating poverty) and a commercial business (providing products to the formal/high-end market). It functions as a business, however the principles and values that drive the business are of greater importance than simply making a profit at all costs. Treating people with fairness (e.g. paying all suppliers a fair trade price and paying the same price for similar products), dignity (e.g. listing them on the business database and keeping in contact), and building capacity where it is needed are fundamental to the functioning of the business.
Income generation increased dramatically from a period where no supplier contracts were in place to where supplier and buyer contracts were in place before the start of the fruit season. Currently, the business supports small backyard mango producers in the Tzaneen area by supplying mangoes, at fair-trade prices, that can then be used to produce higher-value products such as dried fruit and juice. Links have been established with the University of Limpopo, which provides agricultural support services to help increase yields and the quality of mangoes. The Department intends using the experience gained to influence the future establishment of agro-processing hubs.
3. The Hi Hanyile Essential Oils and Medicinal Plants Project
The Hi Hanyile Essential Oils project was established and funded by the Department and implemented by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). CSIR researchers and traditional healers, who collaborated in studies on indigenous plants with mosquito repellent properties, discovered a novel mosquito repellent that proved more effective than similar or comparable commercial products on the market. A community-owned mosquito repellent candle factory was subsequently established in Limpopo, where this plant is being cultivated and distilled, and its essential oils used in the manufacturing of candles. Hi Hanyile is one example of a project aimed at transferring the CSIR essential oil production technology and skills to the Giyani community in Limpopo, with the Department providing the funding.
The Hi Hanyile project involves the establishment of a cultivation site where lemon grass and the mosquito repellent essential oil crop are grown and processed in an essential oil distillation factory. The factory contains equipment required to formulate the active ingredients of the candles, as well as to undertake the manufacturing and packaging of the candles. The Department assisted with providing the project with agricultural equipment in order to expand the bioscience research initiative and grow the business. Through the DST, the project further enjoys the collaboration and co-operation of the Department of Trade and Industry and the South African Essential Oils Business Incubator, an entity of the Department of Small Business Development. This collaboration is essential in assisting Hi Hanyile with their incubation services, essential oil production expertise, quality assurance skills and services, and market linkages. The Department is further engaged in sourcing agricultural economists to assist with developing a business plan to enable the project to access other sources of funding.
Ultimately, the aim of the project includes job creation, skills development, knowledge transfer, entrepreneurial support and economic benefit. The project also benefits from the commitment and support of the local Chief, Hosi Ngove, who provided an additional 100 hectares of land for further development.
The Committee made the following observations:
- The inter-departmental co-operation relating to the Nkowankowa project at provincial level is commendable. The project is supported by the Departments of Trade and Industry, Rural Development and Environment and Tourism in Limpopo.
- There seem to be an unresolved dispute with the former project manager at the Nkowankowa Demonstration Centre. The Committee encourages the Department to conclude its investigation on this matter and to resolve it expediently.
- The Demonstration Centre has small scale equipment, which is not always conducive to produce the quantities and volumes desired.
- Additional space and equipment could go a long way in expanding the production to other possibilities in the agro-processing value chain. Notably, these challenges speaks to the funding constraints the Department has to operate under.
- The Hi Hanyile Essential Oils project was impressive. The Committee was particularly impressed with the levels of skills transfer to community members who are employed at the project, especially relating to crop production skills, oil distillation and candle-making process.
- The Committee noted the high quality oils extracted, produced and packaged.
- The Committee noted the partnerships and relationships with the local community, farmers, government and business.
- The Committee was impressed with the level of production at the plant but has encouraged the workers together with the DST to diversify its production line and to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from the business.
- The involvement of locals throughout the entire agro-processing value chain was commendable. The full potential of the project could be realised with renewed energy and innovative ideas to further maximise the potential of such projects.
- The Committee views the two projects as “model projects”, which should expand to other provinces where possible. Revitalising the agriculture and agro-processing value chain, is key to Government’s strategic areas of igniting economic growth.
- The interdepartmental co-operation is essential for the success of these types of programmes.
- The Committee notes the success of these projects and maintains its view that science, technology and innovation is necessary to drive the economy.
- The projects are examples of scientific research and technology innovation being used to develop small-scale farming initiatives and, at the same time, ensuring that communities are capacitated with technological and entrepreneurial skills, building strategic partnerships, adding value to products and ultimately to transform these initiatives into profit making businesses.
- Members welcomed the visit, particularly as it happened at a time when the Committee is preparing for the budget vote debates. The visit will assist the Committee as it discusses its inputs to these debates.
- Although the Committee was generally satisfied with what they had learnt and observed, they remain concerned about the DST’s limited financial support to such projects and initiatives, understandably due to its own limited financial resources.
- The Committee remains of the view that innovation is paramount if the economy of the country is to realise the huge potential it has, especially in rural areas. It is for this reason that the Committee commends the Department for the excellent work they are doing with the local farmers.
- Therefore, the Committee will continue to call on the National Treasury to increase the budget for the science vote.
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