Cashmere producer bags prize

DR VUYO Mahlati was the big winner at the Eastern Cape’s Female Entrepreneur Awards (FEA) in East London this week.

Mahlati, who started Ivili Loboya, a cashmere producer in the industrial town of Ibika in rural Eastern Cape, using fibre made from the local iMbuzi goat won the top producer in processing as well as the highly coveted overall FEA prize.

Speaking to the Saturday Dispatch yesterday, she said she believed it was the nerve to revitalise Ibika that made them stand out from the other nominees.

“Introducing local processing has great potential for creating employment which in turn makes huge contributions to the development of the local economy.

“I also think being the only producer of indigenous cashmere for commercial use sets us apart. We just add value in a different way, we provide a niche fabric of high quali she said.

The Ivili Loboya factory is a wool-processing hub that performs wool-sorting and scouring as well as fibre manufacturing and hand spinning of yarns.

It also supplies insulation and inner soles for safety shoes.

Mahlati said the community engagement element of their factory was another important aspect.

“Our work involves sourcing wool locally from 332 small farmers from areas around Mthatha, Sterkspruit, Queenstown, Matatiele and Barkly East, many of them women.

“We are also bringing jobs to the rural Eastern Cape as we employ 24 people on a full-time basis, with an additional 30 seasonal sorters, seven weaving cooperatives [which each employ a number of people] and sourced goat fibre,” Mahlati said.

She said the biggest challenge they faced starting up in 2012 was capital and infrastructure.

“We started out with second-hand machines but now that the business is in a steady growing stage, we have more clients who want to know how reliable is our machinery and because we want to use the prize-money to grow the business, we may invest some of it in machinery,” she said.

FEA are awards hosted by the department of rural development and agrarian reform and nominees are selected based on their performance, sustainability of their farming and commercial trading they do. Other winners and categories include the best subsistence producer which went to the Diko homestead, a one-hectare garden that produces various fruit and veg.

Top producer: smallholding went to Abambo Farm which produce tomatoes in hydroponic tunnels.

Top producer: commercial went to Uitkomst which farms Angora goats. —

Source: Daily Dispatch, 12 August 2017