Bulungula Incubator, Eastern Cape
The lemon grass ladies of Bulungula
The Bulungula Incubator lemon grass project started in late 2009 with 14 farmers and investment of R1 million over a three-year period from the Old Mutual Foundation.
Lemon grass is a lucrative crop that can be farmed commercially for use in essential oils and herbal teas. The co-operative’s lemon grass harvest for 2010 was approximately two tons. In 2011, the co-operative expanded to 20 farmers who are working with approximately 1 200 – 1 300 lemon grass plants each. One farmer has already reached the 2 000 plant goal.
The region in which Mam’ Nolesile Dodwana (49), chairperson of the lemon grass farming co-operative in Bulungula on the Transkei Wild Coast, has planted her lemon grass is one of the most beautiful of South Africa. Its rolling green hills are home to round family homesteads with cattle grazing in fields amid small subsistence crops. However, behind this pastoral picture is a reality of grinding hardship. There are no benefits of modern development such as sewerage, electricity, running water or easy access to healthcare.
Being able to generate an income through growing a viable commercial crop makes a difference to the quality of life of these farmers. Their progress has been challenged by the need to develop better drying methods for the lemon grass, source a market and overcome transport issues, but with each harvest they’ve improved their yield and income.