A DUTCH-LED agricultural management company has proposed a “franchise farming” project for Bathurst as a means of empowering the community and combating poverty.
Ndlambe’s executive committee heard a presentation by Gert-Tom Draisma, the chief executive of Tristan Finance last week.
Draisma said the aim of Tristan Finance was to elevate the people of the Eastern Cape currently struggling at the bottom of the hierarchy of needs, by providing jobs, healthy and affordable food, affordable housing, access to healthcare and education.
“Such a goal is not reached in one or two years,” he said, “this effort will take a generation at least.”
Draisma said the municipality invited Tristan Finance to enter into a public private partnership to implement the concept of franchise farming in Bathurst, using a municipal-owned farm and with government investment.
Franchise farming would address three of the four pillars of local economic development: farming, entrepreneurship/small medium and mico enterprises and social upliftment.
“Initially the partnership was expected to start in Alexandria. However, due to legal proceedings between Ndlambe municipality and certain groups in the Alexandria community it has been decided to start in Bathurst first and not to wait for the final outcome of the legal dispute,” said Draisma.
Exco referred to the dispute in their meeting, but said they could not discuss it as it was sub judice. It relates to the issue of commonage in Alexandria.
The aim of franchise farming is to successfully implement rural reform in Southern Africa, said Draisma.
“Rural reform cannot be successful by transfer of land and money only. (In addition to land and funds) it requires life skills, farming skills, management skills, strategy, a market, a long term perspective and a lot of patience.”
All this needed to be combined with an economically sustainable and proven business model, he said. “Franchise farming is a commercial model, with a very clear non-political business control structure.”
The project will be a public private partnership between private companies, the municipality and local communities.
Franchise farming is a commercial model for communal farms. Draisma said the concept could only be implemented next to a “normal” commercial farm of comparable size.
Both farms would be financially independent but use each other for economies of scale. The commercial farm will be 100% owned by Tristan Finance and the communal farm owned 20% by Tristan and 80% by a trust on behalf of the community.
Tristan would work on a clearly defined mandate from the government and community, said Draisma, and would include performance targets.
Tristan will receive a limited management fee for running the franchise farm. Eighty percent of the distributable profit will be invested in the social and economic structure of the community, as profit share for the farmers, education and healthcare.
The private partners would supply water and fertiliser and the community would supply labour.
“It will take time and education,” said Gert ? “The whole project is centralised around the education of people.”
The farm would grow short term, medium term and long term crops. In the first seven years the farm is still in its “investment stage” and no profits are anticipated. But all employees will receive a salary and education in farming, management and life skills.
“Without the franchise farming concept emerging farmers would never be able to wait seven years before becoming profitable,” said Draisma.
He said the private partners had a long-term perspective “We’ll help the community for 15 years at least until the people can take over.”
The farm would be run as a commercial entity with a management board, he said. “We’ll repay investors for loans and thereafter all profits will go to the community.”
Mayor Sipho Tandani said council would consider the proposal and asked other members of exco what they thought about it.
Municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni felt it was “a good initiative” which needed fine-tuning.
“I think it’s very exciting that you show faith in our area and I’d like to know more,” said councillor Ross Purdon.