Springfield Farms Makes Great Strides in Sustainability

22 August 2012

Springfield Farms is an example of an organization which has placed its values above all else. Its commitment to both people and environment shows in all the farm's activities. More sales of their Fairtrade avocadoes and lychees would mean they could take this work even further.



Background

Springfield Farms lies at the foot of Soutpansberg, a small range of mountains in South Africa. The farm is 425 hectares and has 165 permanent workers, recruited from the surrounding communities, and 100 seasonal workers. Springfield produces many different kinds of sub-tropical fruits and nuts. The farm became Fairtrade certified for its avocadoes and lychees in 2005, with the hope of finding new markets for these products while also improving the social standards of the farm workers and their families.

Strict sustainable standards

Tree cutting, over-grazing and burning in the area has caused much environmental degradation. Waste disposal is non-existent and rubbish is dumped randomly. Unemployment is also commonplace, leading to many people turning to poaching and snaring as a means of survival.

By contrast, Springfield is very environmentally conscious in its actions and proud of its commitment to sustainability. In line with the Fairtrade Standards, its environmental policy encourages biodiversity, preserving areas of natural bush and trees and, where feasible, creating new areas. They prohibit tree felling, monitor water usage, and prevent soil erosion. They have also set aside areas of natural vegetation along rivers.

At Springfield, animals aren’t pests, but rather farm residents. They have recorded well over 120 bird species. African rock pythons are seen regularly, and recently a worker even spotted a leopard on the farm. Crocodiles, hippos, and many different fish species live in its rivers.

Training workers—on the job and more

Springfield’s training sessions are one of the most important ways they achieve this biodiversity.

Through these courses, workers develop an increased awareness of nature conservation and learn how to farm sustainably.

“Sewing training was very good and important to me. Now I know how to cut a pattern and this training encouraged me to buy my own machine for at home. People are coming to me at home to place orders for different things. I am so proud about this training.”
Rhoda Baloyi, Springfield sewing club trainee.

Training on good environmental practices is just one part of Springfield’s varied and comprehensive training programmes. The farm has invested a lot of its Fairtrade Premium in training its workers to learn many different skills. They have built a training centre and purchased electric sewing machines. A trainer teaches the women how to sew, cut out patterns, and mend or make clothes for their families, helping them better manage their tight household budgets.

A training facilitator also teaches basic farm production training, welding, and driver training to make people more employable. Basic computer training and adult literacy lessons are provided too. In the future, the workers at Springfield would like to use the Fairtrade Premium to build or extend their current training centre to make welding, plumbing, and woodworking possible.

And Alan Whyte, the manager and owner of Springfield, is always looking for impromptu ways to spice up his training programme. Just recently, while walking on the farm he came across a bushbuck (an antelope found in Sub-Saharan Africa) that had died after being caught in a snare. This became a perfect opportunity for an impromptu training with his employees. Alan loaded the animal on his farm vehicle and gathered the workers so that they could see the wasteful and cruel result of setting wire snares. The workers could see the meat was inedible as the animal had decomposed. “This on-the-spot lesson meant a lot more than a training session sitting in our training centre!” said Alan afterwards.

Big hopes for the future

Springfield sells all its subtropical goods to both export and local markets but currently only sells five percent of their total volume as Fairtrade. For some of their products there aren’t currently any Fairtrade Standards, something that Alan hopes may change in the future. For others, such as their Fairtrade lychees, they still need more traders and buyers. More sales would mean they could invest much more in their training programmes and carry out many more projects for their workers and community.

If you are interested in sourcing lychees or avocadoes from Springfield Farms, contact Benjamin Cousin, Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa: b.cousin-external@fairtrade.net

 
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