Producer Profiles

Heiveld Co-operative

The Heiveld Cooperative was formed to promote social justice and economic development. Discriminated against due to their skin color, farmers lived on the outer social spectrum during the colonial years. Without any political representation or direct access to markets, the people of Suid Bokkeveld have not only had to deal with economic and social hardships, but unpredictable weather. Drought is not uncommon and extreme temperatures have been known to decimate crops. It has therefore been ideal to grow a drought resistant member of the protea family commonly known as Rooibos tea.

Since its establishment in 2001, the Heiveld Cooperative has been able to reinvest in its community through the help of Fair Trade certification and premiums. Representing 60 small scale farmers, the cooperative has helped them develop better livelihoods. The first harvest was created in 2006, which gave a greater employment incentive for women through product packaging.

Since Heiveld has begun selling its tea to Fair Trade importers, families’ income has tripled from one Euro per kilo to three Euros per kilo. The additional Fair Trade premiums have allowed the cooperative to invest in economic and social projects. Not only has it benefited cooperative members, but the whole community as well.

The main goal was to make smallholders independent from wholesalers and neighboring commercial farms. Through Fair Trade premiums this has become possible. They have been able to buy their own equipment for tea production, invest in staff member training and support local schools and disadvantaged members of the community.
 

Quotable

There is a huge difference from when we sold to the large farmers. In the past, the link between buyer and seller was missing - the buyer just gave whatever price they wanted, it wasn't enough to sustain, let alone improve our standard of living. Fair Trade changed this.  

Lionel Louw, Board Member of Heiveld Cooperative

Fair Trade is about self respect and human dignity. The Apartheid times gave my self-confidence a huge set-back. I now have confidence in myself, I know that I can rely on myself without fear or shame. Fair Trade has helped to give me a place in the sun as a woman who can express her own views and take positions. In the past we, as women, never had the privilege to express ourselves, but now we are able to stand our ground. We no longer need to stand back for the men, and can take up our places in the business world.  

Ragel Hesselman, Cooperative Member

We are going to complete the second phase of construction of the tea court, including the installation of water storage tanks. We are building a store/office building and purchase a second tea chopping machine. We have also developed a scheme to help members who experienced especially bad harvests during the 2003-2006 droughts as well as a training program for members in sustainable production of rooibos.  

Lionel Louw, Board Member of Heiveld Cooperative

Programs

Job Creation

Through Fair Trade certification, Heiveld members receive higher wages through premiums. Members are able to work under better working conditions. They decided to build their own office space and tea court with the premiums and this has greatly helped their productivity. More jobs have been created including two new permanent staff, eleven seasonal workers, and one women group working specifically on the production of local packaging.

Sustainable Environment Projects

The Heiveld Cooperative has placed energy and time into developing new sustainable ways of farming. Climate change has gravely affected and prolonged the drought season, which in turn has negatively affected crop yields. To combat these issues, the cooperative has begun to work with local NGOs to conduct research and possible solutions on how to prevent further crop decreases.

Other farmer led activities are conservation of soil, water, and organic seedling programs. Another astounding element the cooperative is proud of has been the preservation of traditional knowledge of Rooibos production.

GIS Training

Cooperative members have decided to develop a comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) for their production. This is important for organic certification and other labeling processes and members have also acquired skills in generating the maps. Thankfully, it has helped them reclaim land that was taken away from them during Apartheid.