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Smallholder cotton farmers in Matlerekeng in Limpopo and Nkomazi in Mpumalanga recently wrapped up the season’s cotton harvest with the launch of locally manufactured and assembled cotton baling machines in Matlerekeng Village. The pink wrapping used in the demonstration of the balers was befitting of celebrating the women in the cotton industry this Women’s Month. Approximately 60% of South Africa’s smallholder cotton farmers are women.
These two baling machines were made possible through the Department of Science and Innovation’s (DSI) Agricultural Bioeconomy Innovation Partnership Programme (ABIPP). The DSI established the ABIPP to implement partnership programmes in support of a competitive and sustainable agricultural bioeconomy, and the programme is implemented by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) on behalf of the DSI. It facilitates, co-ordinates and funds multi-institutional, multi-stakeholder and co-funded agricultural bioeconomy initiatives contributing to increased productivity, food security and rural economic development.
DSI and TIA provided funding to Cotton SA to procure these baling machines. These cotton balers sign the end of manual cotton baling for the beneficiary communities and will allow them to save on cotton harvesting and transporting costs.
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Saves time and money
Previously, the cotton harvested by the smallholder farmers was delivered to the ginneries in woolpacks. Most ginneries have modernised their gins to process round bales aligned to commercial farmers’ mechanisation. This resulted in additional costs for the ginners to build special modules for cotton delivered in different forms to enable them to process it. With the new compacted round bales, the farmers can load more seed cotton on the interlink truck for transportation. As a result, they will earn an extra R0,73/kg for their seed cotton.
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Local cotton farmer and vice-chairperson of Swara o Tiise Molemi Agricultural Co-operative, Frans Malela, who also serves as a regional representative on Cotton SA’s Smallholder Cotton Farmer Forum, expressed his gratitude to Cotton SA and the funders for supporting the farmers with this innovative technology. “The mechanical baling of the seed cotton saves us time and money,” he said. “We no longer have to buy woolpacks and we save on the handling fee at the gin. The cotton baler wraps the bales much faster than we could pack the bags.”
The minister of higher education, science and innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, said: “The machines will enable farmers to conduct primary agro-processing using a hub-and-spoke model so that they can leverage economies of scale to aggregate their produce into bales, which the gins can accept without additional costs for the small-scale farmers,” said Dr Nzimande.
According to Tertius Schoeman, manager for transformation and development at Cotton SA, preliminary investigations indicate that if smallholder farmers could deliver their cotton in round bales, it could lead to an additional income of about R1 514,69 per farmer per 2,5ha. This is a saving that could have a multiplier effect in terms of socio-economic benefits in their area.
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“Cotton SA’s Smallholder Cotton Farmer Strategic Plan aims to increase black smallholder farmers’ participation to 20% of the national crop in South Africa by 2030,” said Schoeman. He expects that, during the 2022 planting season, the Nkomazi machine will benefit more than 880 farmers, with the Matlerekeng machine to benefit 186 farmers, mainly situated in Matlerekeng, Dichoeung, Nokaneng and Rust de Winter. – Press release, Cotton SA