Seeds of Hope: Changing lives of subsistence rooibos farmers

Friday, 24 July, 2020

Did you know that every time you enjoy a rooibos red cappuccino® you’re helping a subsistence farming family in the furthest reaches of the Cederberg to reclaim the pride and purpose that have been missing from this neglected corner of South Africa for so long? You’re also savouring the purest single origin rooibos on the planet. Who ever said doing good can’t taste good too?

Barend Ockhuis, subsistence rooibos farmer

“I’ve lived in Heuningvlei all my life and have been farming since I left school. But everything has changed since red espresso® started to give me seedlings and plough my land. I now earn more than I could ever have imagined. red espresso® is making a difference for my generation.”

We spoke to Pete Ethelston, Co-Founder and Managing Director of red espresso®, to find out more about their Seeds of Hope subsistence farming project and how it’s changing the lives of farmers in the upper reaches of the Cederberg.

At the end of winding gravel tracks trodden by donkey carts, red espresso® is injecting hope into the lives of some of rooibos’ original custodians with their subsistence farming project, Seeds of Hope, which they launched in 2014. Unchanged for centuries, the whitewashed mission villages of the upper Cederberg had become some of the poorest and most isolated communities in South Africa. But with the help of red espresso® their destiny has been forever changed.

Rooibos courses through the veins of these subsistence farmers who have grown the hardy shrub for generations. By assisting them with seed, transport, ploughing equipment and agricultural know-how, red espresso® has drastically improved both their production capabilities and their route to market. 

“At the end of the production cycle, we guarantee these farmers a consistent, premium price regardless of supply or market trends. The cash injection is unprecedented in the area. One farmer has upgraded his donkey cart to a Hilux; others have opened bank accounts for the first time ever. The number of farmers participating in the program has increased exponentially with every passing year and today we work with more than 20 subsistence farmers” says Pete Ethelston.

For decades these communities have been priced out of the modern world. The high cost of seed, transport and ploughing equipment and the reluctance of the marketplace to pay top dollar for premium quality tea, caused youngsters to seek work elsewhere and the older generation to twiddle their thumbs. Seeds of Hope is giving pride and purpose to these true custodians of rooibos.

Watch this video and walk through the tea lands during harvest with Pete Ethelston and Barend Ockhuis, one of the first subsistence farmers to join the Seeds of Hope project.

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