ECDC bamboo initiative secures fourth pilot for province|
• Posted on: 21 November 2011
• Source: ECDC
Development financier, Eastern Cape Development Corporation's bamboo initiative is gaining momentum with the announcement that a fourth pilot at Ngxingxolo near Mooiplaas, about 35 kilometres north of East London site has been launched.
The 10 hectare (ha) pilot is funded by DGB, a leading wine and spirit producer. DGB, which is part of the Eastern Cape Bamboo Initiative, distributes brands such as Boschendal, Bellingham and Douglas Green.
The initial size of the pilot brings the current total of hectares under bamboo cultivation to 22,2 ha.
DGB's project manager for the site Renewable Energy Solutions' (RES) Willem Malherbe says the pilot is part of the spirit producer's goal to address its environmental and social responsibilities by creating green industry enterprises.
The site, he says, was chosen for its ideal climatic and rainfall conditions.
Another reason is that the site - 150 ha -is being developed as a partnership between local farmer Jan Keyser who has committed land to the project and the community.
Furthermore, project beneficiaries are located close by which reduces transport costs. Revenues from the project remain the area and this is a further benefit for the targeted community.
In the first phase of the project, 10 people will be employed.
In its current form, the project is to employ 10 people. However, should the project ramp up to its potential of 300 ha, the number of people who will benefit will rise to 300.
"There is a good possibility that we may be able to expand this project to 1,000 ha, having already secured these commitments to land. What remains is to secure the funding," explains Malherbe whose consultancy is involved in green community projects throughout South Africa.
This should be good news for the area which is experiencing unemployment rates of about 60% which are heavily dependent on social grants," adds Malherbe.
DGB's goals in the medium term include attracting further investment for phase two of the project which will see community participants vetted and organised into formal groups and trained. Capital equipment will be provided so that the project is developed into a sustainable bio energy plantation.
ECDC plans to support the project by funding a small hand weaving project this year on the same site, using bamboo growing wild on a nearby farm.
ECDC project manager Ken Bern says that "as part of our role to guide bamboo investment in the province, we are also assisting potential investors secure funding in order to extend planting."
Prospects for the provincial initiative are good with the Industrial Development Corporation bamboo study close to being finalised. Other prospects include a proposal for the Department of Trade and Industry to include bamboo in the next version of the government's third Industrial Policy Action Plan.