One of the largest irrigated farming ventures in Limpopo was commissioned in January and handed over to the Ikageng community, in Strydkraal.
The R24-million project is to be owned by the local traditional council and the first crop of maize is doing well and is almost ready for harvest, says multidisciplinary consulting engineering company MBB Consulting Engineers project manager and engineer Marius Kolesky.
The project, which will be managed by a strategic partner, is funded by the Limpopo Department of Agriculture (LDA) and was designed and implemented by MBB Consult-ing Engineers.
Strydkraal covers nearly 400 ha and is situated in the Sekhukhune district of the province, about 70 km south-east of Marble Hall.
The 300 ha new section of Strydkraal is a combination of old fallow land, which has been unproductive for many years, and new land that has been cleared of bush. The farm also includes 94 ha already under irrigation, which produces maize in summer and potatoes in winter.
A total of 14 centre-pivot irrigation systems have been installed with coverage of between 11 ha and 40 ha to allow the farm to be commercially and financially viable. These systems are easy to manage and maintain, with low running costs and optimal use of water. The project also involved extensive bush clearing, the installation of surface drainage and bulk water supply pipes, as well as the construction of two pumpstations and the building of a balancing dam, he says.
The addition of a strategic partner, an experienced commercial farmer, to the project ensures the farm will be financially viable and sustainable. Members of the community working on the farm will be able to share in its profits as well as learn valuable skills and agricultural knowledge.
Strydkraal is one of several schemes being implemented to assist emerging farmers to earn a better living from the land in Sekhukhune, where agriculture is a cornerstone of the economy. “The projects provide infrastructure, resources and training in skills . . . which will help the historically disadvantaged to run effective and profitable farming ventures.
“Another scheme which is making a significant difference to farmers in the region is the rehabilitation of the 27-km-long Lepelle canal. Most of the work has been completed, with MBB Consulting Engineers having finished repairs on various small sections, including the 2.5 km end stretch. This canal carries water from Badfontein, on the Olifants river, to Strydkraal, but has been in poor repair for some time. Once the canal is operational, a water supply will once again be available on the doorstep of farmers who have existing water rights,” says Kolesky.
This ongoing programme was consolidated when the LDA commissioned the Nelspruit branch of MBB Consulting Engineers to undertake the design and implementation of a variety of projects in the Sekhukhune district on a three-year contract. The developments range from designing and implementing bulk water supplies, irrigation systems and agroprocessing facilities to building roads and dams.
He says the move to employ consulting engineers was a sound one. “It allows the agricultural engineering division of LDA to streamline projects, as it only has dealings and contact with one company. The progress towards achieving optimal and sustainable development can be gauged in a straight- forward manner and gaps in delivery pinpointed.
“Consulting engineers are generally unbiased towards suppliers and brands, and a tender process is used to employ contractors,” says Kolesky.
MBB has also been appointed by the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture for a three-year contract to design, implement and commission projects and is concluding work on about 30 projects for the KwaZulu-Natal Agribusiness Development Agency.