The CO2 Belch

I always seem to find myself in the unfortunate position of punting a Climate Change agenda in the coldest time of the year. This gains me little traction with the Cape-majority, begging for the onset of spring. Being in the minority as a winter-person, who relishes the cool, green, freshness of the June to September season, writing this remains critical, as winter only lasts so long and our summers have become vicious indeed.

With the Wine Writer of the Year competition deadline looming on the 27th of September at 16:00 SAST, it is critical to explore this subject one last time. It’s implications are R30,000 for the winning scribe, but millions, if not billions of rands for South African viticulture.

With the Cape winter entering its final month, it gives us time to reflect on the rainy season up until now. Our region is currently on 75% of its annual precipitation. With additional rainfall anticipated for August, we should be able to attain, at or near, average rainfall this year. What we have critically lacked, is cold-days and mountain snowfall. On both counts, this winter has been both erratic and downright dangerously below-average.

Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve in Ceres must be as frustrated is all hell. With no 1,000m snow events for years, it must be harming their winter tourism, not to mention their adjacent cherry farm crop. These snow events used to be a once or twice a season occurrence. This seldom happens anymore. However, does this impact viticulture? Absolutely! If you want to see a wine-farmer freak out, simply see vines trying to bud-break in early-August. This is exactly what we noticed this year, after an unseasonable hot couple of weeks the heart of winter, from late-July to early-August.

The cold, wet and windy weather did return. Albeit not critical at this point, early budding can cause the industry to lose their entire crop. An early-budding event, coupled with late frost and/or a powerful cold front with damaging winds can decimate the delicate grape flowers. The aberrance of the weather can wreak havoc with the industry.

Many urban-dwellers lament the constant cold and rain in the Cape. However, even at my youthful age, I can remember winters of yore, when the sun failed to shine for two-weeks, snow fell habitually on the lower peaks and rain fell almost non-stop. This was the normal Cape winter. What we experience now is a product of human-induced Climate Change. The winter we have today is downright subtropical compared to 20-years ago, never mind in the days of the grandparents.

There are always those who question the human-induced charge, some even debunking change in the climate is even happening. So, let’s look at a nightclub. When the club is empty and the air-conditioner is on, it’s positively frigid. Now pack it with people going ape till all hours of the morning and pretty soon, it is indoor tropical and unpleasantly sticky: Earth, 1800AD, 950-million humans living meagerly; Earth today, 7-billion humans going bananas and still growing. This is case-in-point! The atmosphere is a closed system.

There is simply no logic in the assertion that this unprecedented species-population-explosion would have no impact. Even less logically, when that species is sentient, can terraform thousands of square kilometers in one swoop and that this species loves to “belch” carbon dioxide.

If there’s any doubt that the Wine Writer of the Year competition doesn’t mean the world to us as a climate-sensitive industry, the aforementioned should dispel that. The insights that will be revealed, when the articles are released on the 30th of November, will be an invaluable source of information and may even inform how South African viticulture prepares itself for 2050.

Bud-break and flowering occurring earlier each year.

Bud-break and flowering occurring earlier each year.

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.

 —Ends—