Komsberg Receives Another Award

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By Chrispin Inambao KOMSBERG KOMSBERG, a farm largely famed for its wide variety of seedless grapes, this year notched another farming accolade from a European concern that monitors best farming practices that are beneficial to farm workers particularly in third world countries. One of the reasons why Komsberg was chosen as possibly the first Namibian grape farm to receive this highly regarded certificate, according Dr Michael Louis, the managing director of Komsberg, is because the farm encourages blacks to assume leadership roles in farming where management positions are still the domain of whites. Komsberg, that already holds various other accolades from other international bodies, received the Fairtrade Certificate after undergoing a vigorous application process that includes questions on hygiene, workers’ living conditions and on production methods. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWHC) would conclude the final hurdle in this vigorous exercise when Komsberg would be subjected to an independent audit possibly. Like other grape producers, Komsberg pays some of the highest wages in this primary sector that has gained notoriety for paying starvation wages to labourers. Wages at this tranquil farm whose vines are watered by the Orange River range from N$680 for hundreds of people who are employed on a seasonal basis while the other workers who have supervisory roles earn up to N$2 000 a month. On top of the production bonus and the incentive bonus, workers are further motivated to work harder by the motivational prizes that are at stake for the various job categories at this grape farm. Komsberg has a workforce consisting of 150 permanent workers who this year were complemented by an additional 600 seasonal labourers, 200 more than last year. Through the Fairtrade Certification , Komsberg would be compelled to plough back a certain percentage of its sales into a trust fund from which community-run bakeries, gardening projects and other viable projects would be funded for the benefit of farm workers. Dr Louis said the trust fund would be managed entirely by farm workers for the farm workers. But in terms of this certification Milton Shiimi, the human resources manager at the farm, says this benefit scheme is linked to output. “The more we pack the better for the workers. Shiimi also added that apart from fair labour practices the certificate calls for transparency and it also appeals for ‘consultative management’ whereby the workforce is consulted in an inclusive decision-making exercise. Fairtrade is an organisation that was established by European countries to put measures in place to assist third world countries to encourage black leadership in agricultural farming. According to the managing director, it is also an organisation tasked to ensure producers utilise the additional income derived from free trade for the promotion and betterment of workers’ living conditions through the erection of crÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¨ches, clinics, old age homes etc. Very stringent measures need to be put in place in order to qualify and the producers are also subject to “a very strict” external audit. “Komsberg has been applying and fulfilling the conditions for a period of two years and we are proud to have qualified in 2005,” said its boss Dr Louis. Fairtrade has its headquarters in Bonn in Germany. Notable past achievements include the fact that Komsberg was among a handful of Namibian and South African farms which were selected into an exclusive club of farms that were authorised to grow Rally, a new seedless high-yield grape cultivar. In a related development, Komsberg expects to have a better grape yield this year when authorised compared to 2004 despite starting the actual harvest 14 days later than the previous year. This year the farm also expects to harvest and package a new seedless and very tasty grape cultivar called Christellis, which will make its European debut in 4,5 kg cartons. Other markets for Komsberg are the U.K. where the grape will be sent in 9kg cartons Other sun-ripened grape varieties meant for export from the farm are Sugar One, Flame Seedless, Red Globe, Thompson, Dan Ben Hanna and of course the Victoria. From November 16 until December 03, 60 000 cartons of a wide variety of seedless table grapes were harvested and packaged on the 200-hectare farm.