The Okhahlamba (Bergville) Municipality has pulled together an extraordinary coalition of stakeholders to back the Insangu yoKhahlamba Project which aims to make the Bergville area a premier cannabis cultivation hub focusing initially on CBD.
In what is a first for South Africa, municipal workers will have growing dagga as part of their job descriptions.
The Okhahlamba (Bergville) Municipality in northern KwaZulu Natal has launched South Africa’s first officially-backed community-based cannabis cultivation project. The project is a venture between the Municipality, traditional authorities, community organizations and the private sector.
The Okhahlamba Municipality is providing 14 employees through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)to take care of the cannabis nursery in Bergville while eight new jobs have been created at the cultivation site on a farm run by the AmaSwazi community. Security guards are also being employed to protect the property and the two other areas.
The focus of the project is on producing CBD (ie cannabis with low THC percentages) with this year’s target of being 3 100 Europa Strains plants cloned and planted.
Project manager Clive Smith told Quinton Boucher of the Newcastillian Times on 27 January 2023 that the first 500 cannabis seedlings were planted in the ground on 24 January 2023, a further 800 were due to be planted on 31 January 2023 and a further 800 were due to be planted during the first week of February. The first harvest is expected in the second week of April 2023.
The Okhahlamba Municipality’s communications unit says it hopes the project will create 150 jobs at its peak: “It’s a multi-party stakeholder project that includes the municipality, the three traditional authorities in the municipality, the Department of Agriculture, Druids Gardern, African Cultural Heritage Trust, and other provincial entities”. Soweto-based. Hectare Capital & Partners is responsible for the project management, implementation and fundraising of the project.
Cannabiz Africa understands that the Ukhahlamba Municipality is the holder of the SAHPRA cannabis cultivation license for the project. Local mayor Vikizitha Mlotshwa told Scrolla Online on 2 November 2022 that the new business wouldl create opportunities to combat unemployment among the youth.
He added that the semi-rural area in the north of the province also has a long and proud history with the plant.
Mlotshwa said that in 1956, there was a war between the Amangwane tribe and the apartheid police in Ingoba over the control of cannabis production in the area.
“We are excited to announce that finally the trading of weed will be official. We are comforted by the fact that at least our youth will benefit and be empowered. The youth will be taught how to grow and sell dagga,” said Mlotshwa.
The Okhahlamba Municipality’s communications unit says “the primary purpose of this pilot project is to establish the Okhahlamba (Bergville) area as the centre of Insangu (cannabis) cultivation, processing and manufacturing in South Africa. This will be done in a manner that provides medical security and facilitates socioeconomic development locally”.
Smith said that the Bergville community’s involvement in the cannabis project extended beyond cultivation: “the idea is to do the functional process, the extraction process of CBD and the manufacturing of CBD products in Bergville.”
He said that the entire sector would focus on the medicinal uses of cannabis.
The project comes after the Deputy Minister for Trade, Industry and Competition, Nomalungelo Gina spoke at the Agriculture and Land Summit in Bergville on 30 November 2022, where she emphasised that the rural economy, agriculture and agro-processing were at the heart of driving the countryside economy. And, she said, Bergville and cannabis had a special relationship.
“Although Bergville has fertile land for various crops, it has a unique climate that is favourable to the growing of cannabis. We are here to nudge you as people of Bergville to focus more in particular on the growing of cannabis, and the agro-processing of cannabis for markets both domestic and abroad."
About Okhahlamba Local Municipality
The Okhahlamba Local Municipality is a Category B municipality situated in the uThukela District of KwaZulu-Natal between Lesotho, the Free State, and the Alfred Duma and Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipalities. It is the largest of three municipalities in the district, making up just over a third of its geographical area.
Okhahlamba is made up of privately owned commercial farmland; smallholder settlements; the urban areas of Bergville, Winterton, Cathkin Park and Geluksberg; and three tribal authority areas. The ideally-situated agricultural and trading centre of Bergville, less than 50km from the towering Amphitheatre of Royal Natal, was laid out by a retired sea captain in 1897. Two years later, at the onset of the Anglo-Boer War, British forces built a blockhouse in the settlement. The building is now a monument and museum within the grounds of the Bergville Courthouse.
Bergville is a small town and is known as the gateway to the Northern Drakensberg. Approximately half a million tourists are attracted to the Drakensberg annually. Bergville hosts an office of the Drakensberg Publicity Association.
The area is relatively well linked through the network of existing provincial roads that run through the municipality. The municipality is largely reliant on Ladysmith for facilities such as shopping, medical services and education, among others. Large capital expenditure is needed to meet service backlogs in the area.The council manages a caravan park and holiday huts on the bank of the uThukela River. A playground and facilities for sports, including swimming, tennis, bowls, cricket, golf, rugby and badminton, are available. A modern community hall serves as a town hall.
Area: 3 971km²
Cities/Towns: Bergville, Cathkin Park, Winterton
Main Economic Sectors: Manufacturing (29%), wholesale and retail trade (12%), finance, insurance, real estate, business services, tourism, agriculture