A lot of bottle
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Date: 12 March, 2004


The three wines from the CCDO. Photo: Traidcraft
 

 

Charlotte Haines-Lyon visits the Citrusdal Community Development Organisation in South Africa, whose farms produce three Fairtrade wines

How often do you wonder if the extra few pence you pay for fair trade products really makes a difference?

To many people who have watched holiday
programmes full of long beaches and luxurious game parks in South Africa, the need for fair trade in this particular country is surely a bit of puzzle?

Well after spending some time in the country and visiting Citrusdal, I can tell you two things: 1) “Women don’t sweat, they glow” is a lie promulgated by people living in cold grey countries. 2) The extra money you pay when buying Traidcraft wine, really does make a difference to people.

Hot

Citrusdal is a small town of 5000, two hours drive north of Cape Town, sitting at the foot of the Cederburg mountain range. Its predictable hot dry climate - it was 39 degrees when I visited - provides ideal conditions for vineyards and fruit growing.

Once upon a time in South Africa, the majority of vineyards worked on what was called the 'Dop system' through which workers were partly paid in alcohol.



The managers of Citrusdal Cellars. All photos: Charlotte Haines Lyon

De Witt La Grange, CEO of the Citrusdal Cellars who provide three wines for Traidcraft, explains the system as it was when he was a child on a farm: “At 5am the people got 25mls of wine, then at 10am they’d get a second, lunch time a third and at 4pm, home time, they would have a big shot.”

Each worker had to drink their “pay” then and there. They were not allowed to take it home with them.

Unsurprisingly, this led to a great deal of alcoholism, which has left a legacy of addiction and broken families and general disempowerment amongst the black communities in Citrusdal and other similar areas.

Now, not only has the 'Dop system' become illegal, but also farms around Citrusdal are actively supporting the workers in their quest to improve their lives.

Change

Ronel Van Zyl wife of Obas, owner of the Begandal farm, told me that her mother-in-law started to change things in the 80s: “She started the first women’s course, gave Sunday School to kids and started a crèche, pre-school and afterschool club. Slowly other farms in the area followed suit and joined what was then the Rural Foundation, which received money from the government for community development activities."



The CCDO creche

In 1994, the new government stopped the funding and the farms formed the Citrusdal Community Development Organisation (CCDO) but struggled to fund many activities. Hanlie Van Zyl continues the story: “The Cellars started business with Fair Trade and my husband, who owns the Paardekop farm is on the management committee.

"The idea was that the extra money, from the fair trade wine would come to the cellars and Erasmus said the money must come from them to the CCDO.”

The money paid for a coordinator’s post, which is filled by Neels du Plooy, who explains that now there are 18 businesses and 27 farms who are paid up members of the CCDO.

Their mission is to “facilitate the dynamic process of community development for all, to develop the will and obtain the skills to be able to determine their own future and increase their standard of living.”

Neels takes me up to Paardelop and Begandal farms, which stretch across the top of one of the mountain ridges, to see for myself the benefits being reaped. Both farms have community development officers, who are chosen by the workers and then trained by the CCDO at a local college.

Services

As well as their farm duties, these volunteers offer a range of services such as running crèches, arranging transport for activities and sports events.

Hanlie talks about the developments she has seen over the years: “The workers can now take responsibility and do things for themselves. I think one of the major changes is that workers are free to come and discuss anything; the workers and the farmers have learnt to accept each other as persons.”



Pruning the vines

Neels explains “We teach the workers how to talk to the farmer, they can be themselves and free to express themselves in the work and community situations.”

One significant development is that once it would be all white farm managers and all black workers, now according to Hanlie, the workers are being trained in management and none of their five farms has a white manager.

This has led to Hanlie and Erasmus offering to sell one of their five farms to the workers. “We will help in the beginning with the management of the farm, often with similar projects there’s no infrastructure and after two or three years it fails,” she says.

At Begandal I ask Ronel and Obas, if this way of working makes good business sense. Obas replies, “it definitely makes good business sense. It is slow progress but we can definitely see the difference.”

Hearts

However his wife is quick to add, “But we can’t do this for business sense. What we do we do from our hearts, we don’t do it for all the other extras of selling the wine, we do it for the people. Everybody’s living standard is rising, you cannot immediately see the difference but if you look back you can see the huge difference.” Obas agrees saying, “All people on the farm now have self worth, they are not a machine.”

Both farms contribute grapes to the cellars for wine production, and in one field these grapes are being rapidly harvested by an excited group of workers. Andries Faro, explained that they were having a race, between two teams to add some interest to the day, before assuring me that he and the others had grown accustomed to the searing heat.

“I am very proud of those two farms, they’re setting a trend. From a wine production point of view, they provide 30% of our product,” says De Witt at the cellars. “The long and short of fair trade is sustainability, if you don’t look after your people, you are not going to have people or a business. Everybody must earn a living out of the business,” he continues.

Citrusdal Cellars have recently provided cheap housing to six of their
workers, and are developing a scheme through which staff members who have been there for ten years or more can also buy affordable homes.

The cellars also have community development officers amongst their staff, including Virginia Waterboer who told me how she worked with older people in the community. Another CDO, Japie Bok told how he “started a vegetable garden at the cellars and sold some of the vegetables to the other workers.”

Future

De Witt has big plans for the future of the CCDO, he is providing wine
tasting at farms so all those involved in the wine production process
whether lorry drivers, pickers or bottlers will understand more about the product they are contributing to.

“In a few years I want people to be able to drink in one of the new entertainment centres on the farms and be advised by one of the workers on which wine to buy,” he enthuses, sharing his vision for a community benefited by ethical farming and tourism.

So when you are next deliberating over Chenin Blanc, Pinotage or Cabernet Sauvignon, cast an eye to Traidcraft or other fair trade wines. As Hanlie says: “the more you drink in the UK, the better the lives we can create here.”

Wine from Citrusdal forms Traidcraft’s South Africa range, available via their website http://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk

STOP PRESS 12/03/04: Both farms mentioned in the article along with two others in the CCDO have received the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation's official accreditation for all of its products.







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