By Thozi ka Manyisana

GOVERNMENT infrastructure investment in the lucrative wool industry is creating a conducive

environment for communal and emerging farmers to participate meaningfully in one of the

province’s high potential industries that inject much needed income to the economy of the

Eastern Cape.

In pursuit of inclusive economic growth, Department of Rural Development and

Agrarian Reform (DRDAR) MEC Nonkqubela Pieters officially handed over some of the multi

purpose shearing sheds with dipping tanks, animal handling facilities, shearing equipment,

water tanks and ablution facilities to groups of farmers across the province.

In the 2020/21 financial year, DRDAR completed 13 shearing sheds, distributed 584 rams to

communal and emerging farmers of the Eastern Cape as part of its investment in the wool

production businesses of these farmers. A total of 437 farmers exported 4 million kilograms of

wool in the same year.

In the current financial year R22 million is invested in the construction

of 16 shearing sheds, with R15 million injected in the procurement and distribution of sheep and

goats with superior genetics to help improve the quality of the province’s wool clip.

“A lot has been done by the current government because today we see shearing sheds in the

village that can produce the same quality as commercial farmers,” said Pieters during one of the events where she handed keys to excited farmers.

Pieters was told stories by jovial farmers of how the new shearing sheds delivered them from struggles of shearing in rondavels and zinc structures with no shearing equipment. Drdar’s Extension officials are tasked with ensuring that wool grower’s associations don’t sell their wool to informal markets such as bakkies, popularly known as “Boya-Boya” but send their clip to credible companies and buyer BKB.

One of the wool growers benefiting from the Department’s investment is Nkosinathi Nunu,  the Chairperson of Ensam Shearing Shed which was with DRDAR’s R900 000 investment. Nunu said: “It has been a long journey in the dark but today is the break of a new dawn. The old shed we built with iron sheets devalued our wool because it. had water leaks and we didn’t have proper equipment to prepare our wool for the market post shearing.”

He believes that with the dip tank that comes with the new shed built by DRDAR, their sheep will be free of diseases like the sheep scab that does not only affect the quality of their wool but also kills their sheep. Jubilant wool growers from Mtyatya village in Calawelcomed the R1.1 million worth multipurpose shearing shed that was handed over to them by Pieters. They said the new multi-purpose shearing shed infrastructure will not only assist them to produce quality wool but will also improve the lives of their flock as it includes a dipping tank. “I would be jumping up and down now if I was still young to show you how happy I am with the delivery of this structure. It has

always been my dream that this shed should be built and finished while I am still alive and able to

see,” said local veteran wool grower, Qiqi Tibisano.  As part of ongoing efforts to expand construction of agriculture infrastructure to grow the economy, the DRDAR joined forces with Intsika Yethu local municipality in the construction of the Ncora Flats Shearing Shed. At this shed, DRDAR focused on the drainage system, a dipping tank and the animal handling facility. “As the Eastern Cape government this is the encouragement we need from our farmers, to be initiators (Vukuzenzele) so that we support ambitious people and take them further,” said Pieters during the handover. One of the beneficiaries, Lonwabo Nelani said: ” We have waited for so long for this day, which means the official opening of our factory and our legacy to use. We are grateful for what our fathers left for us and we will always take good care of it”. On other hand, Sibanye Stillwater injected R1,2 million in the construction of the Silulutho Shearing Shed in Ngudle village in Tsomo as part of its community development programme where it develops communities in partnership with government departments like the DRDAR. There are many other shearing sheds in the province that

will be opened and handed over to farmers as and when they are completed by contractors hired by

the DRDAR to build them for farmers.