Empowerment in Northern Cape Wine Industry

A rainbow of hope over the Kalahari, Northern Cape.
A rainbow of hope over the Kalahari, Northern Cape.

The Blocuso Wine Development Initiative outside Keimoes in the Northern Cape should be an example of how true empowerment and land reform can work in the wine industry. According to Herman Cruywagen, Chief Executive Officer of Oranjerivier Wine Cellars which is one of the partners of the Blocuso Project, the need for black economic empowerment is non-negotiable in the rural areas of the Northern Cape.
“But as history has shown, the letters BEE do not automatically translate into success,” he says. “Real empowerment depends on partnerships between parties who each have the necessary skills to contribute towards making the specific project work, and inspiring the beneficiaries of the project to help in its success.”
The Blocuso Project is a joint venture between the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Department of Water and Enviromental Affairs, Oranjerivier Wine Cellars and the Blocuso Trust. The latter is a trust of more than 400 beneficiaries representing the communities of Bloemsmond, Curriescamp and Soverby between Keimoes and Upington.
The Project is funded by the Departments to the tune of R21m. Oranjerivier Wine Cellars supplied the planting material and helped establish the current 20ha of irrigated vineyards on the 216ha of land allocated to the project, which includes water rights. The vineyards, which were planted this year, will be harvested for the first time in 2011. As part of the agreement, Oranjerivier Wine Cellars will purchase the grapes as well as issuing the trust with shares in Oranjerivier Wine Cellars based on the amount of grapes harvested.
Cruywagen says Oranjerivier Wine Cellars looks forward to welcoming the beneficiaries of the Blocuso Project into the Northern Cape’s dynamic wine industry.
“The Northern Cape has over the past years become a major player in the South African wine industry, which includes distillation wine and grape juice concentrate,”, he says. “Currently harvesting 150 000 tonnes of grapes a year, we are not only selling our own Oranjerivier brand, but also supplying other players in the wine industry with wine, concentrate and juice. “The beneficiaries of the Blocuso Project can therefore rest assured that they are part of a prolific wine business and can look forward to reaping the rewards, which will provide much relief to these communities.”
Cruywagen said that one of the objectives of Oranjerivier Wine Cellars’ involvement in the project was to create a new generation of people who are active in the region’s grape-growing sector.
“This wonderful piece of the world, fed by the waters of South Africa’s largest river, has a proud history of grape farming, and we are custodians of the vision our forefathers had to create this oasis of vineyards in the Northern Cape,” says Cruywagen.
,”It is important that the next generation of grape farmers be brought into the wine industry by giving them the opportunities they need to stake their claim as land-owners and farmers. This initial 20ha vineyard is thus hopefully the first step towards an economically active generation of new farmers who can join Oranjerivier Wine Cellars in unlocking the potential of this wonderful region for the benefit of all its people.”

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