MEERLUST WINE ESTATE EMPOWERS WORKERS
For several years the Myburgh Family Trust, the owners of the world famous Meerlust Wine Estate in the Stellenbosch region, have been looking at potential projects that would benefit their farm workers in a meaningful and economically viable way as they have a long history of investing in their workforce through the Meerlust Foundation and they wanted to build on this tradition.
This has culminated in a R45million rand black empowerment deal funded by the Myburgh Family Trust, Standard Bank, and the Land Reform and Development Programme (LRAD) of the Department of Land Affairs.
The companies involved, MWT Investments and Faure AgriVillage, are jointly owned (50% each) by the Myburgh Family Trust and the Meerlust Empowerment Trust, which is comprised of 72 people with long-standing relationships with the Meerlust, Vriesenhof and Ken Forrester farms in the area.
The project affords these individuals an opportunity to obtain an interest through the Meerlust Empowerment Trust in the two companies which will conduct commercial farming as well as a business venture, and utilising it in partnership with Meerlust. Skilled support has been included throughout to ensure the success of the project. Although 72 individuals have been given this opportunity to improve their financial and social circumstances the project will ultimately benefit 180 people when dependants are included.
In phase one, the companies purchased from the Meerlust Family Trust 76.5 ha of agricultural land of which 10.55 ha is currently planted under vine and a further 33 hectares are suitable for vineyards. The land includes 31 workers cottages of approximately 60m² each. The long term goal will be to develop 30 ha of quality grapes that will be used in the Meerlust range of wines and possibly, an own label, further down the track.
The second phase of the project has been the development and construction by the company MWT Investments of a wine storage and labeling facility, Compagniesdrift, with a capacity to store 5.3 million bottles of wine. Compagniesdrift will offer bottling and blending facilities as well as in-house labeling. In addition, barrel maturation space for 1 300 barrels is provided. Currently commitment has been secured from four producers in the Stellenbosch area to store their wine and a total of 2.8million bottles are already in the warehouse. The facility is available to local wine producers and will offer a cost-effective alternative to those producers who either do not have their own facilities or where they are required to transport their wine over long distances to acquire such facilities.
Meerlust Wine Estate will support this new business in terms of farming decisions, processing, equipment, management and marketing. Meerlust will also, under contract, store and bottle its wines at Compagniesdrift.
"MWT Investments is an enormously satisfying addition to the portfolio of BEE deals that we have supported in the wine industry," says Daneel Rossouw, Standard Bank Provincial Agricultural Manager in the Western Cape. "Based on the feasibility study we did on the project in 2008, we believe that the company will significantly increase at a strategic level the contribution BEE players can make to the wine industry".
Decades of being concerned for the well being of the Meerlust workforce have culminated in the establishment of the Meerlust Foundation.
The mission of the Meerlust Foundation is to provide a safe and stimulating environment for the children of the farm workers.
Initially the programme started with the establishment of a small crèche and later developed into a programme which had an educational, social skills and development focus. At that stage the Foundation, funded solely by Meerlust, was managed by a social worker and employed 11 staff members.
The vision of the Foundation is to create an opportunity for every Meerlust Child to be in a position to decide what he or she would like to do with his/her life. Over the last decade most of the children have completed at least five years more schooling than their parents had the opportunity to complete.
At the end of 2011 it was decided to close the crèche and after school facilities on Meerlust and to join forces with the Sustainability Institute in Lynedoch. This institute and the Meerlust Foundation share the same vision and values, and now, with funding provided by Meerlust, provides the children with the same facilities that they enjoyed previously. The added benefit being that they can now interact with children outside of their own communities.
The Sustainability Institute provides facilities for pre-school children between the ages of 3 months and two years, a full day crèche and a after school programme for the older children. At the moment six babies are enrolled in the crèche, 12 children are in pre-school and 24 enjoy the after school programme.