JSE-listed agroprocessing company Tongaat Hulett has partnered with the Umfolozi Technical and Vocational Education and Training College, in KwaZulu-Natal. This resulted in four of the college’s engineering students being placed at the Felixton mill, in Empangeni, to complete a 12-month work experience programme that started in January.
The programme provides students with the opportunity to enhance their skills, gain valuable industry experience and realise their dreams for a better future, explains Tongaat Hulett socioeconomic development manager Nkonzo Mhlongo. She says the company understands that the success of the economy rests on South Africa’s ability to train and empower its youth.
“Businesses are well placed to assist government in creating placement opportunities for students,” she says, adding that Tongaat Hulett has established a work experience programme comprising two phases.
The programme starts with a four-month induction process, which exposes the students to Tongaat Hulett’s various repair, refurbishment and overhaul methods used to restore the integrity of equipment and machinery.
Mhlongo emphasises the importance of this process, as it enables the students to understand the importance of maintenance and its impact on the life span of equipment during the crushing season.
Thereafter, students are taught how the various pieces of equipment they were exposed to operate.
Mhlongo adds that ten other students will be recommended for a similar programme as the year progresses.
Tongaat Hulett small-scale grower and land reform manager Wellington Ntshangase explains that the company is committed to supporting black economic empowerment (BBE), citing a recent example of one of the company’s land reform growers, 22-year-old KwaZulu-Natal native Peaceful Ndlovu, who has been growing his business substantially.
Ndlovu took over the reins of his 95.8 ha family farm four years after the death of his father in 2006. The farm was first put under the administration of the executor of the estate and Ndlovu assumed full responsibility of the farm in 2010.
Ndlovu explains that, since he took over the farm – with Tongaat Hulett’s support – productivity has increased from 2 684 t of sugar cane in 2010 to 3 455 t in 2013.
Tongaat Hulett provides ongoing support for Ndlovu’s farm and facilitates farm-based training on various farming aspects, including fertiliser application, cane estimation, knapsack calibration and variety identification.
The company has also assisted Ndlovu in progressing applications for grant funding from the Agribusiness Development Agency and the departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, which have been successful.
Ntshangase explains that Tongaat Hulett regards the supporting small enterprises as the best way of supporting job creation and empowerment of historically disadvantaged South Africans.
“Support starts with encouraging learners to take agriculture as a subject, exposing them to successful agricultural cooperatives in their communities and identifying good role models, like Ndlovu, who are young successful farmers,” he concludes.
About Tongaat Hulett
Tongaat Hulett has about 35 000 employees working at 20 locations in six countries, namely South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The company focuses on the complementary feedstocks of sugar cane and maize. Through its sugar and starch operations, Tongaat Hulett produces a range of refined carbohydrate products from sugar cane and maize, with several products being interchangeable.
The company’s South African sugar milling, refining and agricultural operations are located on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Its sugar mills at Maidstone, Darnall, Amatikulu and Felixton can collectively produce more than one-million tons a year of raw sugar, while a central refinery in Durban produces more than 600 000 t/y of refined sugar.
Tongaat Hulett’s Mozambique-based sugar operations comprise expanded sugar mills and estates surrounding Xinavane, west of Maputo, and Mafambisse, in Sofala province.
In Zimbabwe, Tongaat Hulett’s sugar operations comprise its fully owned Triangle Sugar mill and a 50.3% stake in Hippo Valley Estates, which has a combined installed sugar-milling capacity of more than 640 000 t.
Tongaat Hulett also has 3 838 ha of fully irrigated sugar cane in Swaziland – the Tambankulu estate – which is located north-east of the country.
In Botswana, the company has a 60 000 t/y packing and distributing operation. It also has a Namibian packing and distribution operation with an 80 000 t/y capacity.