Inclusive farming where emerging farmers are mentored to come of age and instant gratification are certainly mutually exclusive concepts. In fact to succeed takes a long and winding road as the owners of Bestwill (Pty) Ltd discovered.
In 2008, six years prior to the formal establishment of Witzenberg PALS, Wilhelm van Wyk from JW van Wyk Farming discussed empowerment options with external parties. These discussions together with the establishment of PALS kickstarted the forming of Bestwill Pty Ltd and Tierkloof Investments Pty Ltd.
While JW van Wyk is situated in Bo-Swaarmoed, Tierkloof is in Onder-Swaarmoed. The first four years of the empowerment project was tough-going for many reasons, with the lack of rain being one of them. The apples they started off with were severely challenged by the undersupply of water. Four years ago they switched to table grapes, primarily Red Globe. This year Tierkloof harvested their first crop of table grapes. This made a 13 year dream a reality, not only for Wilhelm as mentor, but also the four Tierkloof shareholders: Jurie Muller, Hendrik van Rooyen, Nothini Bebeza and Gert Fritz.
Witzenberg PALS was a strategic planning partner from early on which, according to Wilhelm was an incredible help, yet, practical challenges and dead ends made it a hard journey without problem free solutions. However, the solutions were found.
The hurdles in their way targeted Wilhelm as the mentor in his strive to get the project off the ground, as well as – and even more so – for the Tierkloof shareholders desiring the ultimate benefit of a successful project.
Financing was one of the challenges. There was the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) earmarking funding in 2019 but only finalising it in 2022 with a 76% payment rate. In other words, it took four financial years to get one year’s funds.
Commercial banks were approached where First National Bank (FNB) came to the party, on the condition that the whole farming enterprise needed to move its business to FNB. An admin obstacle, but it added huge value to the transformation dream. Yet, securities and guarantees were virtually 100% supplied by Wilhelm, putting a huge strain on his responsibilities.
There is no recognition from government’s side for the mentor and/or the shareholders for their contributions (and sacrifices) in order to make a success of the project. BEE codes do not acknowledge the structure format. Expenses made from CASP funds are not even tax deductible.
It is time that Big Brother comes to the party, but with or without their buy-in, Bestwill, in association with PALS, is positive and planning to diversify and to extend their operation with Forelle pears in the foreseeable future. Come what may, the total team still believes wholeheartedly that, whatever hurdles lie ahead, only the best will come from Bestwill.