Elethu’s growth an inspiration of true empowerment

Elethu is a 62ha grape farm near Bonnievale in the Breede River Valley. Surrounded by rugged mountains, the valley is climatically diverse and known to be the largest fruit and wine producing valley in the Western Cape.

Elethu was awarded to the Bonnievale Workers Empowerment Trust by the Langeberg Municipality in 2007.  At the time, the farm was in need of development, but it has since been cultivated with 24.2 ha of vineyards, producing white and red grape varietals.  The farm is a producer member of the Bonnievale Wine Group (BWG).

“Making a success of a long-term perennial crop require meticulous planning from Elethu’s management, and seeing the farm produce high quality grapes and good yield over the years makes it very rewarding!”, says Kristin Johnson, Cellar and Production Assistant of BWG and responsible for Elethu’s farm administration. “Not only have we been able to develop the skills required to run a farm of this size, but we have also been able to pay dividends to the 39 beneficiaries of the Trust”.

Elethu, meaning “It is ours” in Xhosa, has 4 permanent employees and uses seasonal workers to farm the land.  The farm is owned by the Trust, which is 100% black empowered and consists of the 4 employees and 35 staff members who are gainfully employed by BWG.

“We could not have been successful without the partnerships that have shaped our journey along the way”, elaborates Johnson.  Besides the operational mentorship and financial support received from CEO John Barnardt and the management team of BWG, the staff at Elethu has been assisted by a commercial farmer and former mentor.

“Also key to our success has been the tremendous help received from the TU” explains Johnson. The South African Wine Industry Transformation Unit (colloquially known as the TU) progressively drives transformation in the wine industry. “We have made good use of the training and development opportunities the TU provided and received funding for essential infrastructure upgrades, which aided us with the further development of the farm”.

“The staff’s responsiveness to mentorship guidance and advice helped them grow the business and develop in their personal capacity,” says Sakkie Bosman, viticulturist at BWG and current mentor on the farm. “Everyone understands that farming is a 24 hour, 7 days a week business that requires dedication and commitment.”  He is very proud of the staff that is making such a huge success of Elethu.

“The Trust was formed to create a better future for ourselves in the agriculture sector”, says Johnson, “but first, we needed to build a sustainable enterprise and become more independent”.  Since mid-2020, Elethu has been running on its own steam with Johannes Fredericks as farm manager and the farm produced its first wine made by award-winning winemaker, Edwin Mathambo.  The wine is maturing in barrels and will be released in 2022.

“We are also very proud that we were able to produce our product with the necessary ethical and environmental compliance”, concludes Johnson “and trust that South African and global wine consumers will enjoy drinking our wine, as much as we have enjoyed producing it!”

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