Waitrose Foundation At Work

Empowering workers for maximum impact

Januarie 2024

We had an opportunity to chat to some of the workers and worker committee members at our grower partner, Auldearn Farm in Grabouw towards the end of 2023. We met with Pietie Koena and what an inspiring story he had to tell!

Pietie has been working at Auldearn for about 26 years (from 1998). Originally he is from Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape. He initially started working on the water reticulation systems in the vineyards and eventually became manager of the young trees. It takes a lot of skill and effort to bring the young trees to the stage where they are mature enough to bear fruit suitable for export harvest. Pietie found that to be most rewarding - seeing them through the cycle to mature trees where they can produce optimally.

The Waitrose Foundation was introduced to the farm in 2009 and a democratically elected worker committee was established, and training was given to the committee to fulfil their duties in looking after the interests of the worker community on Auldearn. Pietie experienced the positive impact of receiving ongoing training, including financial management and working with budgets, as well as leadership training and mentoring. Members of the committee are regarded as mentors - they see growth in their own skills and capacity and within their work environment, in relationship with their co-workers.

Various projects where funded and supported by the Foundation over the years. These included beekeeping, farming with pigs, the women's club, and the alien vegetation clearing and cutting to sell as firewood. Money generated through these projects were allocated to certain worthy causes or where there was a specific need in the community. Workers were financially assisted to pay for transport to attend funerals in the Eastern Cape. One of the workers is a keen marathon runner and he was helped to travel to Durban in KZN to run the Comrades. The youth in the community was also assisted in their extracurricular activities, including music events.

The creche and aftercare facilities are very important to the workers and always given priority with regards to project funding from the Waitrose Foundation. Currently there is also a veggie patch being established to grow organic vegetables - for community use and any surplus to be sold in order for the project to be sustainable.

Pietie is proud to be part of the team at Auldearn. They work together very well and have truly become a family, looking after the production side of the business, but also taking care of their worker community as best they can. Thank you for your invaluable contribution, Pietie!