New hope, cash for Magwa and Majola tea estates

A 3D model of the Magwa-Majola Tea Estate.
A 3D model of the Magwa-Majola Tea Estate.

With more than 1,500 jobs created, the Eastern Cape government is forging ahead with plans of turning Magwa-Majola into a thriving agri and eco-tourism corridor.

The department of rural development & agriculture has set aside more R41.8m to Magwa-Majola for the development of an eco-tourism corridor.

This is a welcome development, as the Magwa and Majola tea estates once thrived and employed thousands of people in Mpondoland.

However, years of poor governance saw productivity being affected, resulting in Majola Tea, in Majola village, Port St Johns, placed in business rescue in 2015, with the provincial government pumping more than R100m into business rescue processes in three years.

Magwa Tea on the other hand has produced tea which is sold at local retailers in Lusikisiki.

While opposition parties previously criticised Bhisho for the running of the once thriving tea estates, MEC Nonkqubela Pieters said plans were afoot to make Magwa-Majola more sustainable.

Pieters revealed the details while tabling the department’s budget and policy speech at the legislature in March.

“Magwa-Majola will be transformed into an agri and eco-tourism corridor to improve sustainability of the tea estate. The tea estates have introduced local packaging, branding and distributing to 43 retail stores in the province.

“Tea production is done in 2,041ha of land sustaining 1,558 jobs,” she said.

Of these, Pieters said 516 were permanents jobs while 1,031 were temporary.

The 1,558 jobs contributed to the 21,000 jobs created in 2020 in the agriculture sector, as it showed resilience throughout and recorded an average growth rate above 20% for the first three quarters.

And with the Eastern Cape shedding more jobs that it creates, resulting in a staggering 47.9% unemployment rate— the highest in SA — every job created is celebrated as it eats away at the runaway unemployment figures.

Adding to the province’s woes is the -7% decline  in economic growth in 2020, largely thanks to Covid-19, which brought global economies to their knees and contributed to the gloomy economic outlook.

But Pieters said there was light at the end of a dark tunnel, saying the “Magwa-Majola master plan has been completed”.

“It is being used to engage prospective investors such as the African Development Bank and the World Bank. A joint proposal has been developed with the Food and Agriculture Organisation to introduce an agro-ecology pilot in the Magwa-Majola for investment purposes.

“In 2021-2022, a total budget of R41.8m has been allocated to Magwa-Majola for development of an eco-tourism corridor,” she said.

This article was paid for by the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform.

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