Monday, 11 April 2016
Illovo Sugar Ltd

"UBOMBO SUGAR LIMITED (USL) is developing an additional 441ha of bush to cane at St Phillips farm approximately 35km away from the main estate."

UBOMBO SUGAR LIMITED (USL) is developing an additional 441ha of bush to cane at St Phillips farm approximately 35km away from the main estate. This development is a partnership with the St Phillips Catholic Mission through a long-term lease. The mission was eager to have its farm leased to generate income to support its poorly-funded outreach projects which include a school, orphanage, clinic and a rural ambulance service.

This project is part of a response to the slow development of the Lower Usutu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP 1) and is an effort to increase the Ubombo factory throughput on the recently expanded but still under-utilised Ubombo factory. The partnership with the Mission on this project provides an effective vehicle for making a meaningful and recognisable social investment contribution to a sustainable poverty alleviation project in the cane supply area. This is in line with one of USL’s strategic objectives to “Be welcomed in the communities in which we operate”.

Project implementation commenced in May 2015 after approval of funding and it has been a hive of activity on site with bush clearing, land preparation, construction of bulk water supply infrastructure and installation of an infield irrigation system. Land preparation, pump house and pumping equipment installation and the greater part of the infield irrigation system are complete. Planting of sugarcane has already started on the completed sections of the farm, with about 150ha planted at time of reporting. The irrigation system consists of nine centre pivots (332ha) and semi solid sprinkler (109ha) on the outfall areas, pressurised through nine booster pumps and pumping mains.

Bulk water for the scheme is abstracted from the LUSIP St Phillips canal and conveyed by gravity through a pipeline across the Mhlatuze River into a balancing dam within the farm. The dam is lined with a special plastic material to prevent seepage. The gravity main consists of mainly buried PVC piping but with a steel pipeline section encased in reinforced concrete across the riverbed section.

The gravity main discharges into the balancing dam through a level control valve at a residual pressure of 30m (3bar). This unique arrangement presents an energy saving opportunity and the residual energy has been utilised through installation of variable speed driven (VSD) pumps which operate as booster pumps for the infield irrigation system. Centre pivot wheel tracks are being gravelled to prevent deep rutting, structural damage and downtime during operation. As the project is almost complete the current focus is on finishing the remaining portion of the irrigation infrastructure.

RIPPING at St Phillips as part of land preparation (left) and pump station almost complete (right).

CENTRE PIVOT installation (left) and lining of balancing dam at St Phillips (right).

PLANTING commenced in September


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