An eye-opening journey for Fairtrade fruit pickers
Fairtrade International’s network of locally based liaison officers help producers to get Fairtrade certified and support them in their development path.
Nathi Tshabalala, one of Fairtrade’s liaison officers in South Africa recently helped a group of fresh fruit farm workers to go on an “exchange visit” to several farms in another part of the country. Here are some of his highlights from the visit :
There is an African saying that goes: “Travelling is an eye-opener”. My grandmother taught me that if you learn alone and in your own surroundings, you become intelligent; however, if you travel, see places, meet people, engage – you become wise.
So when the workers from Eve Brand Farms came to me, wanting to use part of their Fairtrade Premium to visit other South African Fairtrade estates, I was delighted to help them organize it.
The ten workers travelled 600km from the Eastern Cape in their farm van for the exchange.Everyone was excited, and eager to see what they could learn from other Fairtrade farms. Most of them had never travelled out of their province of birth before.
First stop was Koopmanskloof in Stellenbosch. Their Fairtrade officer, Peter Titus, gave a presentation about the farm and highlighted the achievements of their CEO: Rydal Jephta was born and bred on a farm himself, but now heads the whole estate, one of the most successful in South Africa. The lesson to all was: “Where you are is not your destination, just a resting place. Your attitude will determine your altitude”.
Our second visit took us to Piketberg to visit Erfdeel Farming Trust. What I like about Erfdeel is that the workers run the Fairtrade activities themselves and do not rely heavily on the farm management. This day was no different; we were welcomed by the Chairperson of the Joint Body (which represents workers and management) and got to meet with just the workers. I took a back seat and allowed the workers to interact and discuss topics that are important to them –there was a flurry of chatter and people exchanging ideas and experiences.
It just goes to show how much workers can achieve when they are able to connect and learn from each other.