On November 23, 2020, the fencing material for the farm arrived, marking a significant step in our progress. We have completed 17,130m of bush-clearing around the farm fence, ensuring a clear perimeter. By December 28, 2020, we aim to open and fence the storage yard for the main pipeline, implements, SHARPS material, and irrigation. This yard will also house the heavy machinery essential for soil preparation. Farm fencing has been completed at corners A/D (4,023m), A/B (3,784m), B/C (1,200m), and D/C (1,200m), securing these areas. To ensure site security, G4S Security has been hired to oversee the premises during the night and monitor the offices. Our goal is to complete the fencing of the entire farm by April 23, 2021. We have also made necessary investments by purchasing tools, small machinery, and fencing material locally in Botswana.
The bush clearing of the main pipeline began on November 9th, covering a total distance of 11,350m to SPC farm-dam 3. By March 24th, key components such as air valves, relief valves, isolating gate valves, and thrust blocks will be fully installed. All necessary materials for the main pipeline have been delivered by Flotek (Botswana and SA), Seven Star, and Datha Irrigation (SA). Completion of the main pumphouse structure and installation of pumps and piping was achieved by March 8th. SHAPS will commence work on the MCC and VSD in the main pumphouse on March 19th.
Orchards and Irrigation
Bush clearing has been successfully completed on various blocks of the farm. Block H & I (Grapefruit), totaling 148ha, Block B (Benny), covering 100ha, and Block C (Jassie), spanning 80ha were cleared on specific dates. RHM was cleared on 4 March, covering 75ha, while Block A (lemons) was cleared on 18 March, encompassing 50ha. By 19 March 2021, approximately 453ha of bush will have been cleared. Our dedicated team used Cat D85 bulldozers to rip through Blocks H & I, completing 112ha.
Ridges were initiated on 25 February 2021, with 14.6ha completed. Palala Construction began building Holding Dam 2 (50,000 cubes) on 19 February and will finish by 9 April 2021. Orders for irrigation and equipment for Pumphouse 2, Block H & I (148.4ha grapefruit), and Block A (46ha lemons) have been placed. Deliveries are 90% complete and expected to conclude by 22 March 2021. Construction on Pumphouse 2 is finished, with the installation of pumps and electricity next on the agenda. Planting will commence on 12 April 2021, in Block H, followed by Block I and then Block A (lemons), covering 48ha.
Our goal is to complete the planting in these blocks by the end of May 2021.
We currently have the following machinery on the farm:
- 2 x Wheel Dozers (Bush Clearing)
- 3 x Excavators (1 x Bush Clearing & 2 x Holding Dam)
- 2 x D85 Dozers (Rip)
- D65 (Ridge)
- 4 x ADT Trucks (Dam) on all the different sites.
We bought 8 John Deere tractors from Afgri Botswana; they arrived on 18 November and will be used on the fence and farm to transport materials using the 12 picking trailers we bought.
We bought 2 x JCB machines from Afgri Botswana to help with the digging of pipelines as well as backfilling once pipes are laid.
Our new excavator from Part Sales Botswana is busy on the SPC mainlines for blocks H & I (grapefruit).
We received our first 5 chemical spray tanks from South Africa on 24 January.
Machinery still to come:
- 1x D65 Dozer (Ridges)
- 4 x 3000 liter spray tanks
Our first supply of diesel has arrived from Kwa Nokeng Oil on 16 November 2020, and we will use about 20 000l per month.
A second diesel tank of 23 000l is up on SPC farm – it operates as the main Diesel pump.
Our monthly usage is 20 000 – 30 000l
Charlton Electrical, awarded the tender by BPC, has commenced erecting the main electrical poles connecting Selebi town to SPC Farm. Sharps Electrical Botswana will ensure electricity supply for Phase 1, set to go live by 26 March, 2021. Additionally, BPC installed the electricity meter in our switch room, sourced from a nearby 11 kVa line.
On Friday 13 November 2020, Ms. Gontse from the Department of Labour approved the employee contract for SPC Farm. Currently, we have 48 employees, a decrease from the previous 80. The contracts for 32 pipeline employees expired in mid-February. However, starting from 25 March 2021, we will have more job opportunities in various departments. The irrigation team, land clearing team, and planting & peg teams will require 12, 12, and 40 people, respectively. We have planned training programs, including first aid, health and safety, tractor operators, firefighting, and more. Additionally, we will appoint and train a SHE officer. In the next 18 months to 3 years, we aim to employ around 200–250 people on the farm.
Project concerns and delays
When we started this project, we set ourselves goals and timeframes to be met in order for this project to operate smoothly, cost-effectively, and as fast as possible.
Delays we had:
- EIA only received by 7 November 2020.
- Historical sight nr 26A & 26B on our main pipeline.
- 181mm rain from week 50 – week 52 and a further 292mm from 29 January to March 2021.
- To find semi and skilled labour (boulders, drivers, foreman, and pipelayers) for agriculture rates (not BCL).
- Training and productivity challenge.
- Rocks and water drainage on the main pipeline between WUC & Prisons +-3km.
Concerns for 2021
- COVID 19
- BPC overhead line from Selebi town to SPC switch room.
- Articulation on the farm.
- Rip and ridge to meet our dates set for irrigation and planting.
- Building the main pumphouse, pumphouse 2, and withholding dam 2 in time for orchards to be planted.
- Finding enough productive labour for our farm needs.