Knowledge is Power

dem·a·gogue 

/’demə,gäg/

Noun

A political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.

Admittedly this is a hard hitting definition for a wine industry article. Why this charged introduction? Leaders of this type can be dangerous to nations and even specific industries. Numerous developing nations have fallen into their clutches and recently, some personalities influencing agricultural policy in South Africa, have reared their heads.

A book a day keeps the demagogue at bay. Poor policy, poor practices, poor economic ideology and poor leadership is kept ay bay by an intelligent populous. Agriculture and the wine industry in particular, is in a fragile state at Africa’s southern tip. Without government support, often enjoyed by our northern hemisphere counterparts, eking out a living off the land can be a stressful one. Having personalities running about, with the aforementioned definition, could be a nail in the metaphorical coffin for some. There is only one solution: knowledge; Empowering the workforce with information and education to identify red herrings, before they take hold of a once thriving industry.

This is exactly what FairTrade and DuToitskloof’s Fairhills Project does. We have noticed a promising trend amongst the rural workforce on member farms. The digital satellite dishes decorate the roofs of homes, alongside the solar water heating panels. Smart phones and MP3 players are becoming commonplace, with working activity often sounding like a mini-concert in the vines. Social media activity is on the increase. First and foremost, the project’s library and computer centre on Lorraine is being well-utilised, free access to information technology and the internet is precipitating a knowledge revolution in the Fairhills’ community.

This all makes for a well-informed workforce that has a greater understanding of the world around him/her, a grasp of what is fair practice and what is not, an insight into current affairs and how to make informed decisions in an adolescent democracy, like South Africa’s. One also cannot discount how access to information can forge advancement in critical thinking and therefore, raise the value of human capital in these communities.

Improved employee-employer relations are a result. The recent labour upheaval in the agricultural sector was one such example. DuToitskloof and its associated producers experienced no issues. This is due in part to a successful empowerment project, but can also be attributed to a workforce that thinks critically, asks pertinent questions, can grasp basic economics and is informed enough to understand when someone/something is creating faux outrage for some external gain.

Not only can we thank our successful Fairhills Project and the FairTrade ethos for this blessing, but we need to thank the maturity of our community, staff members and foresight of the producers. Knowledge is power. Rather than legislating people out of poverty, a short-term solution with some painful consequences; we opted for a long-term permanent fix, educating, upskilling and informing people into greater prosperity. We all are bearing the fruits of this knowledge harvest that in turn, makes for a more successful, sustainable and pleasurable viticultural harvest.