The remote community of Wuppertal, located west of the Cedarburg mountains in South Africa’s Cape province hoped that Fair Trade would provide some answers to isolation and economic insecurity. Regrettably the challenge of competing in the new Fair Trade markets against large well run plantations (also certified) proved too great.
Plantations, built and capitalised during Apartheid years had existing customer links which proved just too attractive to mainstream traders whilst the more remote small farmers were perceived to be too risky.
Wuppertal could not sell huge harvests following the end of the drought in 2008. Newly certified plantations entering the large markets across Europe and North America took all the business.
The Association split unable to sustain the large stocks of tea and subsequent payments to farmers.
Luckily, despite recriminations, new initiatives are emerging and community healing is underway. A new cooperative has emerged, it is the only Fairtrade and organic certified group in the community.
84 members have registered a new cooperative, built offices and a new tea court which became operational midway through the 2011 harvest.