NPR - Sugarcane At Umfolozi, South Africa: Contributing To The Sustainability Of An Environmentally And Socially Sensitive Area
Sugarcane has been grown on the Umfolozi Flats in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa since 1911 and now occupies an area of approximately 9 000 ha between the Umfolozi and the Msunduzi rivers. The sugar production area is bounded by a large local population and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage site. This paper considers the value of sustainable sugarcane farming in an environmentally sensitive area with a large rural population. The Umfolozi Flats are eminently suited to sugarcane production due to its deep fertile soils, high heat units and favourable annual rainfall. With a labour intensive milling operation and manual planting and harvesting, job creation is considerable, providing direct employment for 6 000 people and in this way the sugar industry contributes significantly to the local economy. The location of the sugar mill in the midst of the production area, coupled with the utilization of a narrow gauge railway results in a highly efficient transport system with a minimal carbon footprint. Current sugarcane industry research focuses on improving efficiencies in the use of chemical inputs, including fertilisers and herbicides, thereby minimising contamination of the environment. A sustainable farming tool, the Sugarcane Sustainable Farm Management System (SUSFARMS®), which aims to guide growers on critical production, environmental sustainability and social issues is currently being introduced.
Keywords: sugarcane, sustainability, environment, South Africa