Support for the transformation of the agricultural sector, in terms of the transfer of ownership and skills and the upliftment of the communities in which we operate, is a key element of the group’s strategy, both in South and southern Africa. This has largely been achieved through co-operation with government in transferring properties to communities under land restitution legislation and the establishment of joint venture (JV) farming operations with the community recipients of claimed land.
Over the past eight years the group has transferred land to the value of R288 million to the government or communities on a willing buyer-willing seller basis. In the majority of these cases we have engendered sufficient trust to partner the new owners for sustainable long-term success of these operations.
The JV model has been proven by Crookes Brothers to be an effective option for land reform. In this model, the community retains ownership of the land and also partners with an established commercial farmer such as ourselves to farm the land. The jointly owned farming company typically leases the land from the community and the commercial farmer has a management contract with the farming company to provide administration and technical services, as well as to train and mentor aspirant farmers from the community. This model not only ensures the commercial viability of the business, but also facilitates community involvement at all levels.
Our reputation for integrity, excellence and fairness is a key differentiator in earning selection as a preferred partner in such structures. Some of these ventures are described below:
- Since 2008 we have been involved in a joint venture with 600 households comprising the Libuyile community near Malelane (Mthayiza Farming) for the management and operation of a 1 100 hectare cane farm.
- A major part of the group’s 2 500 hectare Komati estate, which was sold to government in 2010 and leased back on a 10-year lease, was transferred to the neighbouring Mawewe community during the course of last year. After engagement with the community it was agreed to waive the group’s rights in terms of the balance of the lease and enter into a 20-year joint venture with the community from 1 April 2016. While this arrangement will result in a short-term reduction of profits, it offers significant long-term economic benefits and will position the group as a major player in this arena.
- A similar structure is in the process of implementation at the 40 hectare Belleview deciduous fruit farm previously owned by the group, where we are working with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform of the Western Cape to establish a joint venture with ex-employees.
- At Scottburgh, we established Mpambinyoni Construction Supplies (MCS), in which the local Cele community and historically disadvantaged individuals have a 37% shareholding and Crookes Brothers holds a minority share. MCS mines sand on Crookes Brothers’ property and manufactures bricks and blocks for the construction industry.
- We have also concluded a memorandum of understanding with the Cele community to involve them as partners and shareholders in the Renishaw property development project. Employment equity is a further focus area in terms of the group’s transformation activities.
We strive to increase representivity in management through the implementation of affirmative action employment policies, supplemented by well-established training and mentorship programmes. We follow similar policies in the other southern African countries in which the group operates to increase the involvement of the indigenous populations in the agricultural sector and ensure that the benefits derived from agriculture are shared with local communities.