As we end off Women’s Month, we shine a light on the strong, hard-working women in all spheres of industry who not only contribute to the country but to our everyday lives.
One industry that had been hit but the COVID-19 Pandemic is agriculture. Many local producers and wine farms are battling to recoup losses of the alcohol ban and costly safety regulations but still strive to meet the high standard in ethical trading and sustainable business set by Fairtrade Africa.
Fairtrade Africa represents producers who fully support the role of workers and farmers who represent the heart and soul of local brands. We look at two inspiring stories of women who work tirelessly behind the scenes.
WORKING TOGETHER AT MONT PIQUET AND RIETKLOOF
Angelique Wentzel, Merchelle Williams, Valery Maarman and Mariska Julius are four women who work on the sister farms Mont Piquet and Rietkloof. With a combined working experience of 32 years, these farms have become their homes.
They’ve witnessed and experienced firsthand the teething pains of implementing Covid-19 safety regulations on the farms. The financial cost of Covid tore through the stability of many companies in South Africa, with many businesses shut down.
Mont Pique and Rietkloof managed to buy batches of sanitisers and masks through the Recover Africa Project funds received from Fairtrade Africa. This meant that business could continue as normal.
Where people were used to two or three incomes in one home, they were down to one, which made weathering the storm difficult. Overnight they witnessed how their vocation became essential work. “We were receiving people from all over the place, people who would never normally work here, construction workers, they were all coming looking for work because they had been laid off at their other jobs,” Angelique said.
The close-knit community relied on one another to keep things going. When most companies couldn’t afford to safely have their workers on-site, Mont Pique and Reitkloof were able to keep hope alive for many families, even if they were only down to one income.
The one thing the women can agree on is that the pandemic has taught them what is more valuable in life – the people and the community around them.
WORKERS EMPOWERED AT BUSSEL BOERDERY FARM
Sylvia Windvogel works as a quality controller in the Knipeshope Packers Warehouse, located on the Bussel Boerdery Farm. She is also the Vice-Chairperson on the newly formed Fairtrade committee that works as a liaison between the farmworkers and the farm management.
Sylvia is grateful for the new changes that she believes Fairtrade brings to her working environment. As a newly Fairtrade certified member, for Bussel Boerdery workers the benefits couldn’t have come at a better time. All workers received food hampers during the beginning months of the season, at Christmas last year and in February of this year.
Sylvia is particularly grateful for the hand sanitisers, face shields and masks they were able to receive as part of the benefits and most especially the first aid kit that every worker received.
Having a first aid kit has meant that Sylvia and her fellow workers can sufficiently follow covid regulations even when they go home. Unnecessary contact has been reduced, therefore also reducing the chances of contracting the virus.
Even though ultimately the committee represents the workers on the farm, and the majority rules ethic comes into play, as Vice-Chairperson on the committee, Sylvia still has some sway over the decisions that are made by the committee. She readily admits that this isn’t always easy because someone is always bound to complain about how things are run. But this doesn’t sway her from being optimistic about how the committee will be helpful in the long run.