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.
A lot has changed. Fair Trade premiums have given us a fair price for our work. Now, at the end of the week there is still money left over after buying groceries. ”
Koos Paulsen, Cooperative Member
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
Greater Access to Markets
Due to its isolated location, Heiveld has had to work extremely hard to develop strong relationships with traders. Through Fair Trade certification, they have been given greater access to the market. Since Heiveld is a relatively small cooperative, market competition has been stiff, but Fair Trade certification has given them the opportunity to sell their Rooibos tea at a fair price. It has guaranteed them an income that is sustainable and beneficial to their community. Thus, Heiveld has increased their production from 30 tons to 71 tons per year.
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.
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.