Madiba’s Lessons For Business

The children were always close to Madiba's heart. We try to perpetuate this love - showing it through the Fairhills learner nutrition programme, amongst others.

The children were always close to Madiba’s heart. We try to perpetuate this love – showing it through the Fairhills learner nutrition programme, amongst others.

The father of modern South Africa passed away peacefully on the 5th of December at 20:40 SAST. This marked the end of an era for our nation, an era of transformation, reconciliation and selfless leadership lead by the moral compass of our greatest son. This great southern nation has just concluded ten days of mourning in what has been, an emotional roller-coaster for most. Obviously, he too is only mortal, and all mortals have their detractors. Minority negativity aside, no man has done more to unite differing opinion, ethnicities, ideologies and religions than Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Does this mean South Africa’s work is over? No, furthest from it. Mandela merely built a multi-racial and democratic foundation on which the hopes and dreams of all South Africans must be built. He could never have fixed decades of legislated segregation and centuries of ethnic bigotry in his five year presidency and near twenty-four years of post-imprisonment. His work is up to us now; the torch of his legacy has been passed to the fifty-million children of the south.

South African businesses have their role to play. Madiba has also taught the private-sector valuable lessons about becoming part of positive change. It has been said by some that he was a socialist, even a communist, at heart. There is truth in this. However, Mandela was foremost a pragmatist, a learned man and a listener; he realised the world had changed, he realised all sectors were needed to build a nation, non-governmental, governmental and private. Rather than being a rigid idealist, he adapted his vision to a changing world, just as he expected far-Right-and-Left South Africans to adapt theirs. Instead of nationalising every strategic industry, he chose to teach industry something more valuable.

Ubuntu: Encompassing all noble human virtues, I am me because of you. So it must be with business in South Africa. Business will always need to pursue a profit, for without profit, small businesses, entrepreneurs and corporations cease to exist. Without it, job-creation will unsustainably fall completely upon the shoulders of the State and entrepreneurship and private-innovation will perish. However, we must do so responsibly, sustainably and inclusively. We must do so in the spirit of Ubuntu, where no cog within the machine of humanity and indeed, business, can exist without the other; the hands that pick, the hands that transport, the hands that vinify, the hands that market and those that manage; neither can work if the other does not.

With our troubled past, the need for corporate social responsibility in no stronger than in South Africa. Madiba had influenced our company, as we awoke early to the needs of our community. Thus, we did not hesitate to join Origin Wines in starting our FairTrade, Fairhills project. He opened our eyes to our responsibility as not only being to our clientèle, but also to our people.

We pledge as a company to live his ideals, we promise to perpetuate his legacy in our own small way. We are all responsible: labour, business, individuals, government, irrespective of dark or light complexion. It may sound opportunistic for a company to hop on the Mabida bandwagon. However, his call for change, his call for compassion and his call for Pan-African-betterment knew no bounds. We will continue to do what we can to fulfil his dreams. For his dreams weren’t his own, they were the dreams of a nation.

By Andres de Wet

Age Time Bomb

In numerous developed countries, particularly places like Italy and Japan, an ageing demographic is becoming problematic. The recent financial crisis was a contributing factor to short term economic contraction, but gone are the days of long-term rapid growth for these nations, as the population shrinks and the workforce ages.

It may be somewhat shocking to our colleagues in the developed world, but farm employers are responsible for housing their employees and immediate families from birth to death. No other sector in South Africa works in this way, and probably few economic sectors anywhere in the world. Whatever the argument may be for and against, this is the status quo that has been entrenched in our labour legislation and secure of tenure.

This creates a plural problem; agriculture is heavily burdened by additional responsibility and financial burden, as rural employees are burdened by their work and domicile being inextricably linked. It creates a level of insecurity amongst both parties: employer and employee. As aforementioned, it is the standard arrangement from the distant past. Creating more independence will be difficult and may take a generation or two. As for now, farm-owner and farmer-worker remain linked by land, law and legacy.

One issue threatens employer and employee: an ageing workforce. Just as the introductory analogy places strain on developed nations, the swelling population of rural retirees is causing logistical stress and infrastructural shortages. By law, retirees must be accommodated on the farms where previously employed; but there are just so many homes.

When a family home is occupied by an unproductive retiree, it means that a productive young family cannot be accommodated and more jobs cannot be created. This is a cruel truism, not to insinuate our elderly do not require our care and affection, but rather to find a workable solution that sees the elderly, the productive youthful and agri-business owner benefit. This too, is important for a country with chronic unemployment and farms that are generally understaffed and financially overburdened.

Looking for a holistic solution, we would like to embark on the same mutually beneficial journey we have taken with Lorraine Primary School, our early-childhood development programme and the FairExchange Healthcare Post. The long-term solution is not working farm-by-farm, but by looking after the needs of the aged as an entire Fairhills community. The retirees have similar needs and similar issues, these might include lack-of-mobility, need for additional healthcare, easily managed and maintained housing etc.

The darker side lurks beneath; where as any young family could become aggrieved by elderly parents resisting their moving into the limelight, so a similar specter can lurk in farming communities. This happens when retirees become belligerent when asked to move to smaller staff-homes for a couple, allowing working families with children to move into the larger family staff-homes. This downsizing with age is a natural progression, but this logic is often conflated with being relegated. This could be remedied if the elderly have a life-path that provides late-in-life dignity and services, but allows farms to get on with what they’re supposed to do, produce. Effective production can only occur if the infrastructure is used at optimum and the workforce is productive.

We need to work steadily towards a revolutionary retirement policy and plan for the Fairhills community. As we have pioneered healthcare and education through our stellar Fairtrade project, so we can pioneer a new vision for the rural aged; one of dignity, care and mutual benefit, thereby giving the old, young and business peace-of-mind.

Community Clinic Launched for DuToitskloof Labour

Fair Exchange rural clinic on opening day

Fair Exchange rural clinic on opening day

On 13 May 2013, Fairhills Project, DuToitskloof Wines’ Fairtrade empowerment project, opened the new community clinic adjacent to the improved Lorraine Primary School. This project will complete a consolidated community service node, in this proximal location for associated farm labour. 

Together with a generous R720,000 grant from WM Morrisons and cooperation with our cellar, Fair Exchange and Origin, The mobile healthcare unit and Fair Exchange clinic was launched to much fanfare this Monday. The grant was handed over to the Fairhills Project by representatives from WM Morrisons United Kingdom.

Not only will Lorraine Primary now cater to all learners from grades one through seven, quality primary medical services will be available to all Fairhills’ farm employees, free of charge. This development expands the services on offer within this innovative empowerment project, which already includes psychological services, day-care facilities, above-standard housing, green-energy for heating and quality primary education services.

The community library will be moving to the new facility, to make way for an expanded and heavily-utilised community computer centre. This state-of-the-art facility is not only available to all learners, but provides the community with access to information technology and doubles as an adult-learning centre. The new infrastructure is fully air-conditioned, with the Western Cape Dept. of Health assisting with equipment, maintenance and logistics at the new clinic.

The clinic boasts a sick-bay with television and all primary medical equipment, a consultation room, a waiting room, administrative office and full bathroom facilities. The clinic sports a unique mobile healthcare centre; fully equipped and on wheels, this innovative concept brings healthcare to each producer farm within the Fairhills’ family.

The relocated library provides the same quality services the project members’ have become accustomed to, including up-to-date computer technology, multi-media tools and even, two PlayStation ports for the young-ones.

Landscape improvements are also being implemented to address the secondary, but important aspect, of an attractive and livable community, building pride-of-place. Outdoor play-spaces for the learners are being improved, with miniature sports courts being constructed and lush lawns lined with trees, being planted.

DuToitskloof Wines, with the continued hard work of their Fairtrade project, Fairhills, continues to improve the lives of rural people each year.  We trust the new facilities will assist in addressing social ills, provide improved healthcare, foster skills development and ensure quality education for the community. All this, to build a brighter, empowered future.

By: Andres de Wet

Security improvements and signage for the Library and Medical Centre

Security improvements and signage for the Library and Medical Centre

Our computer centre, undergoing duplication.

Our computer centre, undergoing duplication.

New developments, courtesy to some great partnerships.

New developments, courtesy to some great partnerships.

Our relocated library

Our relocated library

Corridor to the Waiting Room (foreground) and Consultation and Sick-Bays (background)

Corridor to the Waiting Room (foreground) and Consultation and Sick-Bays (background)

Yes, a PlayStation (one of two) for the young ones.

Yes, a PlayStation (one of two) for the young ones.

Installing a unit for our fully air-conditioned clinic and library

Installing a unit for our fully air-conditioned clinic and library

WM Morrisons, Origin and FairTrade opening the new clinic for the Fairhills DuToitskloof empowerment project

WM Morrisons, Origin and FairTrade opening the new clinic for the Fairhills DuToitskloof empowerment project

The generous grant from WM Morrisons being handed over.

The generous grant from WM Morrisons being handed over.

The mobile healthcare unit, bringing care to rural communities, when and where they need it.

The mobile healthcare unit, bringing care to rural communities, when and where they need it.

Some of our little beneficiaries (Fairhills Creche) welcoming the guests in a way only they can!

Some of our little beneficiaries (Fairhills Creche) welcoming the guests in a way only they can!


Lowest Common Denominator Wine Legislation

Computer mock-up of Penfolds label courtesy AdelaideNow:

Computer mock-up of Penfolds label courtesy AdelaideNow:

Alcohol advertising has been prohibited in several countries in the last decade. Last month, Australian health lobbyists took matters a step further, demanding graphic health warnings on the front labels of all alcoholic beverages, from spirits and beer to even their genteel ‘lifestyle’ cousin, wine.

In AdelaideNow, prime print media for South Australia’s capital, the rhetoric went thus, “The campaign, led by a range of vocal groups including National Alliance for Action Against Alcohol, the Alcohol Policy Coalition, Vic Health and the Cancer Council of Victoria, has targeted a range of products from beer, spirits, mixers and wine in its aim to combat public health hazards resulting from risky drinking practices.”

I’m certain the Barossa and Clare valleys are in a complete tailspin about these manoeuvres in Australia, thus I find myself weighing in on the debate as their southern hemisphere cousin.

Nobody can deny that alcohol abuse is a scourge. Nobody can deny that irresponsible consumption can lead to health and social problems. Nobody can deny that anything not done in moderation is usually bad for you. Why then, the target painted on the back of the alcohol industry? Same reason why the so-called sin taxes always increase, irrespective of the budget tabled: it is an easy target for tax hikes, public ire and zealous health lobbyists.

It’s easy to label any industry, associated with the production of a non-essential product, as unnecessary, a luxury, or in the case of alcohol, downright socially destructive. Then I pose the question to all sane-minded people, going back to, anything not done in moderation is usually bad for you: Are we to have graphic warnings of hardening arteries and people unable to escape the confines of their bed-prisons on BigMac burger packaging? Are we to have graphic warnings of rotting teeth on Coca-Cola cans? Are we to have graphic pictures on sweet-packets of removed digits and dead-tissue due to diabetes? Do we need provocative warnings on mens’ magazines such as Playboy and FHM of herpes and other STD infections? With debt being the greatest issue in the Western world, should we not have warnings on credit cards?

The point is, in a healthy democracy, the common denominator determines the public need, not the lowest common denominator. In a democracy, the right of the layperson is paramount, the rights of the careless minority, secondary. When this unwritten rule is disregarded, you create a nanny-state. A de facto over-legislated and heavily policed society is created, where freedoms of the many are curtailed, because of the irresponsibility or carelessness of the few.

Would-be alcohol abusers would not be put off by a warning or even graphic imagery. Extreme abuse is an illness, an addiction, something that must be treated clinically and psychologically. Would-be abusers don’t do so, because the bottle looks attractive. They do so, because societal or personal pressures trump their own inherent education about the perils of abuse. Education is the answer; social programmes in badly affected communities are the answer, not defacing brands.

In fact, in the South African context, it is not the branded wines which cause the social ills associated with alcoholism. It is the bulk wine sold by the litre, in nondescript plastic containers. If anything, one should aim to formalise distribution and pack quantities, to curtail the misuse of the product in bulk by individuals, in addition to public education.

Wine in particular is a lifestyle product. Wine is supposed to be a romantic affair, paired with friends, family and excellent food. To degrade a millennia-old product of the vine, the nectar of the gods, to the level of a scapegoat for social ills, seems blatantly reactionary.  This is not to deny that abuse of the product can become barbaric. However, a certain type of person becomes an addict; a certain type of beverage does not an addict make.

I hate to place the wine-label debate in a religious context. At the same time, no other story can illustrate what is being said more clearly than the following: When Jesus multiplied the bread and fishes, when He turned water into wine, I doubt he intended anyone to eat two fishes and three loaves of bread in one sitting. I doubt He wanted anyone to be morbidly obese and develop heart-disease and diabetes. Just as I doubt He wanted anyone to consume three bottles of wine in one sitting. Therein lies the point, even the most righteous of things can become an evil if abused.

Everything in moderation! May sanity prevail; seeking responsible consumption and sales, public education and enlightenment, rather than a convenient scapegoat panacea for legislative zealots.

Knowledge is Power




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.


The State of the Wines Address

Our winemakers unwinding at End of Year function, Chris Geldenhuys, Shawn Thomson & Willie Stofberg

Our winemakers unwinding at End of Year function: Chris Geldenhuys, Shawn Thomson & Willie Stofberg

I have found it particularly tough to write in recent weeks; the writer’s block was due to mutually exclusive reasons. One, the preoccupation with the redesign of our website and two, the spate of rural unrest that swept through the Western Cape in recent weeks.

Our website is a very positive development. It has taken a number of months to come to fruition, as we attempted to communicate “Du Toitskloof’s personality” on a computer screen. Quantifying it and putting personality to design is more complex a process than we had anticipated. However, with much collaboration, numerous marketing meetings and working with, we managed to work within their web-design template and come up with something more visually-stimulating, fresh and streamlined.

We have firmly jumped on the social media bandwagon in 2012 and this is reflected on our improved website, with a “Social Media Toolbox” located at the bottom of the page. With the plethora of platforms that appeal to different people, from Pinterest to Twitter, from Facebook to WordPress, we needed to speak to everyone without creating a cluttered appearance. We’re hoping our clients have found our increasing diversity useful and tailor-made to their needs.

On the slightly unpleasant side, the rural unrest in certain Western Cape farming communities has had us quite alarmed; the gross generalisation of public utterances have been extremely disheartening. As one of the largest FairTrade (Fairhills project) flag-bearers in Africa, with empowerment and best- in-industry labour credentials, it was heartbreaking and disappointing to have the entire industry painted with one broad brush by political opportunists.

Public anger was stirred in certain towns amongst the seasonal rural workforce or unemployed living in informal settlements. So much of the so-called “farm worker strike” was peppered more with rural-town service-delivery issues, structural societal unemployment and political posturing than it was for its media moniker: farm protest. This is evident in our valley, where seasonal work is rare, our community is part of the Fairhills project and where sound labour practices and rural empowerment is priority. You cannot mobilise content people working for mutual benefit, so we escaped the contagion. Through the hard work of farm employees and our accredited producers and their constant, collective engagement, we have escaped unscathed as a community and stronger than ever.

In better news, 2012 has been the year of the accolade. We have been completely humbled by the slew of awards that our wines have accumulated. Just late last week, three of DuToitskloof box-wine offerings made it to the Top10 in South Africa, with our Chenin Blanc taking poll position. This came on the back of a very successful Michelangelo Awards ceremony, awarding numerous of our wines, including an auspicious double gold for our Dimension red-blend. The FNB Sauvignon Blanc Top10 awards named us as one of the best in the nation and the only larger producer to win such a stamp of high-quality approval.  Even our brand new, naturally sparkling range, Cape Beach Club, was awarded as Best Value for Money wine in its category for 2013.

With the last couple of years being the time of austerity, we are pleased to offer wines of distinction at excellent prices. Stressed consumers don’t have to sacrifice their inner sommelier in lieu of their wallet. We will happily oblige no matter what the packaging may be; we do not compromise on excellence between the bottle or box, cork or screw-cap.

We are also getting close to announcing our premier red-blend range. At an exclusive tasting, prominent wine commentators were invited to the cellar to taste Willie Stofberg’s latest and greatest straight from the barrels. Once Quest is launched, we will have all bases covered and we will offer a wine for any occasion.

In the vineyards, things are looking good for 2013. Most vines look particularly healthy and although we had some pretty vicious wind over the last week or two, the damage appears to be minimal. The best Christmas present we can receive is if the weather continues to play ball; we could be in for a good harvest if current estimates are anything to go by. With a good winter behind us, our water reserves are also looking healthy for the latter part of summer.

Finally, but by no means least important, is the role that you, the loyal Du Toitskloof consumer, has played in making 2012 great. Thank you for continually believing in us, our producers, our winemakers, our workforce and other contributing parties. Thank you for rewarding our continued efforts to produce value-of-money wines in a socially responsible manner. Thank you for always arriving at the store and saying, “When in doubt, go with Du Toitskloof.” This vote of confidence in our unwavering commitment to consistent quality, is what keeps us successful and means we too, can look forward to an even better 2013 with your support.

Du Toitskloof & Fairtrade

Press Release: 19 November 2012

Du Toitskloof Wines (DTKW) is very proud of the fact that in terms of the accreditation by Fairtrade of the cellar and the farms of all its members almost eight years ago, it presently operates and sells Fairtrade certified wines, either in bulk or bottle, supporting one of the biggest Fairtrade projects anywhere in the world.

To receive Fairtrade accreditation, DTKW and its members had to achieve and has maintained a high standard of ethical and sustainable farming and winemaking practices, particularly in the treatment and remuneration of workers. Every farm and the cellar, undergoes a stringent auditing process each year for the renewal of their Fairtrade certification.

All cellar staff members are paid substantially more than the minimum wages prescribed by government. However, the ethical treatment of staff involves much more than the monthly or weekly wages they earn; it also involves their overall level of well-

Fairhills kids playing at the newly renovated Tierstel Daycare Centre – Now sports veggie tunnel

being and quality of life. For this reason, accommodation is made available to them free of charge or at very low monthly rentals. Early in 2012, DTKW upgraded all its staff accommodation. Houses were gutted on a rotation basis and completely refurbished: new ceilings, new floors, kitchen cupboards, bathrooms, new plumbing and new electrification were installed.

The Fairhills project that has resulted from our Fairtrade accreditation, has contributed enormously in recent years to the enrichment of the lives of not only the workers, but of their families, in particular the children. Everyone is involved in this project: all our 13 producer-members, their 19 grape farms, approximately 400 farm workers and their 1 200 dependents.

The project is managed independently by a committee of 34 farm workers, who decide how the premium income will be allocated and to which projects. The premium of €0.70 in the case of red wine and €0.80 in the case of white, is paid by socially-conscious consumers, who buy Fairtrade wines such as those produced by DTKW, thus contributing to the upliftment of workers in participating emerging countries.

In addition to the premium paid by consumers, the Fairhills project also receives funding from certain overseas retailers, local non-governmental organisations, South African government departments with DTKW itself, a substantial contributor.

One of the first projects initiated by Fairhills, was the establishment of day-care centres for the children of working parents, staffed by trained caregivers. Three have been in operation since 2006. Today they provide care for 170 children between the ages of three months and five years. The children are transported to and from the centres in buses bought for this purpose, receive two nourishing meals a day, and are checked once a week by a qualified medical nurse. All activities are selected to stimulate development while the older children, those between four and five years old, are taught computer literacy.

These centres, where children from non-Fairtrade farms are also welcome, are run by an ex-farm worker and a management committee of farm workers. They provide employment for 23 women from the surrounding farms, who all receive ongoing training in early-childhood development.

The Fairhills Project is also deeply involved in the running of the Lorraine Primary School, situated on one of our member farms. The school has approximately 100 learners, of which almost 90% are from member farms. It originally only consisted of three classrooms. The first addition was a kitchen, where meals could be prepared for learners as well as for the little ones in day-care centres.

In the last few years separate classrooms were added for grades 3 and 4, while a new classroom for Grade 5 is proposed for 2013. When completed, every grade will have its own classroom, where specific learners can be taught for longer periods in a familiar environment.

A community library opened its doors two years ago, which serves both learners and adults. In the same year the school completed construction of a computer centre, which today, has a bank of 28 computers. Those receiving training in addition to the older children at the day-care centres, are learners at the primary school, as well as Fairhills learners in Grades 11 and 12.

Attached to the school is an after-care centre available to learners up to and including Grade 4. These learners are assisted with their homework and also receive an after-school lunch. At the same time, it provides employment for four adults who manage the programme.

Over the years a community centre was built which plays an important role as a focal point of social activities and a meeting place for members of the community.


Away From Glass

DuToitskloof-Fairtrade 75cl TetraPak wines

I am definitely a wine traditionalist. Nobody can deny the joys of sitting in a gorgeous setting, preferably on a Cape wine estate, pulling the cork out of an elegant bottle, hearing the pop sound followed by the aroma of a stunning nose reaching for oxygen for the very first time. There is nothing like the cork and bottle combination that screams wine sophistication and I’m a sucker for the elegantly-wasted.

However, times are a-changin’ and those who do not follow trends are relegated to the trash-heap of formally glorious brand names, like a viticultural Pan Am. The latest wine-spawn of the ever forward-thinking DuToitskloof Cellar is wine-in-a-box. However, I’m not referring to those now famous three litre boxes, the ones that Constantia house-wives hide in their fridge. I’m talking about their new United Kingdom venture with Waitrose and importers, Raisin Social.

This is a 750ml bottle of wine in a Tetra Pak. You know what this packaging looks like, even though its name may be unfamiliar, the concept definitely is not. Many a trip to Pick ‘n Pay, Tesco or Publix is dominated by Tetra Pak items from milk to juice to even olive oil, so why not wine? After all, who’s 2012 Best Value for Money Cellar? Would we not expect them to find ways of saving on packaging costs to bring the consumer wine at the best prices possible?

“You wine heathen,” I can hear people scream, the vitirati would be appalled and would not be caught dead pouring out of such a low-class contraption. Is there method in DuToitskloof’s madness, is there a glimmer of genius in this blatant anti-traditionalist move?

Fairtrade in the UK is big business and DuToitskloof being as big a Fairtrade project as it is, bringing the cellar’s name and its responsible production partner together in one package, can only benefit the brand.

Glastonbury Festival and Hyde Park concerts are synonymous with this island nation. The Brits love to get out into an open field and have a party, once cloud cover is down to only seventy percent and temperatures soar to a searing 18°C. This is a market that is hostile to the bottle. No glass on the grass, please!

We are British, so also do it green, please. Unlike China, Europe and the UK actually realises that earth’s resources are finite and they actually sign climate accords. Tetra Pak constitutes only four percent of the net product weight, versus forty percent for glass. It’s fully recyclable, can be easily compacted when disposed of, transports more efficiently and takes up less storage space. It ticks all the right tree-hugger boxes, but fails in the, “May I open that for you, monsieur,” department. Not to mention the responsible producer guarantee that comes with the Fairtrade stamp. Unlike China, Fairtrade labour is… well, you get the point!

However, when it’s somewhat sunny, does the UK huddle up indoors or at restaurants? Or does the isle spend time outdoors, sucking up the northern summer for what little it provides. This is the lifestyle DuToitskloof-Fairtrade 75cl Tetra Pak aims to become part of. Bringing wine to the wine drinker where bottle openers, glass and heavy weight is a liability; think a picnic overlooking a glorious sunset with a Cabernet-Merlot or drinking a chilled Chenin-Sauvignon styled white under a waterfall. Now, that’s living life and enjoying life is what the wine lifestyle is all about. So, maybe DuToitskloof is not so insane after all.

False Accusations: Bad Commercial Farming Industry

It is indeed a horrible pity that more often than not, negative reporting sells best in the media. One cannot blame them, as sensationalism sells and just like any other industry, media is also a business. However, the negative publicity the wine industry and commercial farming sector has received in recent years, is not only damaging to the image of South African wine, it also harms the very people biased reports claim they want to help.

I cannot recall who uttered the words, but in paraphrasing, they said something like, “Malema would have never had a leg to stand on calling for land seizures if all commercial farmers were FairTrade accredited.”

Many report findings are made out to be representative of the entire wine industry, when we never see these people in our area analyzing labour practices of people like us, FairTrade accredited producers. The Western Cape’s agricultural sector is painted with one broad brush stroke, when I’m personally quite confident that gross labour transgressions are very much in the minority.

I digress there will always be those bad apples amongst any crop. Thus, stating that the entire commercial farming sector is completely above-board and no rotten practices exist, would be both naïve and foolish. However, on the opposite side of the same coin, to claim oneself as a statistically accurate researcher or above-board journalist; making sweeping statements insinuating the entire commercial farming sector (and by that inference, the wine industry) is rotten, is also foolish.

It is a pity, because such reports harm people like us, wine producers with more stringent labour regulations than South Africa’s famed tight labour laws. Our FairTrade project assures our employees receive the best possible staff-housing, conditions of employment, adult education and perks one could possibly have as a semi-skilled worker, anywhere in the world. Actually, education sophistication, amenities and technological advancement amongst FairTrade learners are better than many high-income-earner children receive. A feat we are proud of and will continue to develop.

It is a pity our land-based empowerment project is on ice. The reason sadly being a lack of cooperation and support from the national government departments; one that claims to put rural empowerment and land redistribution first. Inadequacies and budget-constraints tend to relegate responsibility in partnering with farmers to help address land-ownership imbalances. We’re hoping we can revive these aspirations in the near future with the very efficient Agriculture Western Cape department.

We will continue to deliver a product that is produced in a responsible manner and invite any interested party or industry skeptic to see what can be done. Being the world’s largest single FairTrade project gives us authority to question the negative image and challenge beliefs that commercial farming puts rural peoples last. We also challenge government’s view that our industry wants to claim all profits, benefits and land-wealth to ourselves. It is an easy electioneering ploy, but devoid of statistical proof. If government actually made an attempt to meet those who want to empower rural people half-way, there would be little fuel for the land-inspired emotive anger in more radical leftist circles.

 Stop blaming the cow for spoilt milk, when one continues to buy that milk from a grocer that refuses to turn on their fridges.

FairTrade: Drinking With Your Heart

The cute children of the Fairhills Creche (early-childhood development program)

Fairhills: South Africa Project

It is indeed a pity that in today’s South Africa, the name FairTrade is still so seldom heard. In actual fact, many people don’t even know it exists. If they do, they’re unsure what a FairTrade product means. DuTotiskloof Wines hosts the largest FairTrade project in the world, namely Fairhills; yet, so few of their loyal wine drinkers are aware what type of responsible purchase they’re making when they take the wine off the shelf.

Granted, FairTrade was aimed at the first-world customer. It was started to ensure the conscious consumer that any agricultural product they purchase with that label, would be produced in a responsible manner. Thus, to expect the emerging economy consumer to take notice may be a little tough an ask, or is it?

In South Africa, with its overactive sense of social consciousness due to a tumultuous past, with empowerment and rural reform firmly on the political agenda, one wonders why FairTrade hasn’t made more of an impact in the local market. We are, after all, not your run-of-the-mill emerging economy, we are a country of two halves making a whole; we are a nation striving to better the fortunes of the previously marginalised and bridge those two halves.

For the cellar and the producer, being FairTrade accredited comes with a heavy burden. Not only the mountain of paperwork it produces, but the regulations, audits and criterion which far exceed South African labour and empowerment legislation. The additional costs and demands which come with the label can be sizeable. However, with that burden, some hefty rewards are forthcoming.

One, a clear conscience; FairTrade means you go above-and-beyond to ensure safe, fair and above-par labour practices. Two, it provides your workforce with best-in-industry housing and working conditions leading to a higher quality employee. Three, it fosters skills development, not only in providing adult skills-training, but also in boosting childhood education and providing after-school programs. Four, it ensures we produce wine that is environmentally responsible; after all, farmers have the most to lose from Climate Change.

So, when you pick up a bottle of FairTrade wine, are you just drinking it because of the joy a Cabernet or a Sauvignon can bring to a dinner engagement, a party or a sunset with friends… or are you thinking about what went into it? Purchasing FairTrade is purchasing with philanthropic intent. Buying FairTrade is consuming that 750ml of joy, whilst bringing joy to the peoples of rural areas and bringing joy to the earth. Buy smart and buy responsibly.