Netherlands-based fresh produce marketing company Cool Fresh International has teamed up with the CSR division of another major produce marketer Capespan to support a youth development project in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
In the spectacular Sundays River Valley – the country’s most prolific citrus production area – the project’s first phase is already underway, with all parties involved working to address social challenges in disadvantaged rural communities.
One of those challenges in the Sundays River Valley is the seasonal nature of labour opportunities in the local citrus industry, the region’s single biggest employer.
Many locals struggle with poverty, which leaves young people particularly at risk from a lack of adequate healthcare, nutrition, education and sporting facilities.
Cool Fresh, Capespan and three partners – Little Libraries, The Thembalethu Aids & Edu Trust, and The Stars in their Eyes Foundation – are aiming to create a project that brings in partners from various parts of the fresh produce supply chain to offer their direct input and involvement.
Over the next couple of years, in fact, the goal is to set off a chain of events creating ‘new beginnings’ for those local communities, including strong local youth leadership, sporting excellence, increased literacy levels and harmonious cooperation between communities.
At the launch of the project, Capespan’s CSI manager Ansonette van der Merwe observed that joint ventures can “drastically increase the impact and scope of community development”.
She also appealed to local government to work with the five partner organisations by providing “in kind resources”, such as the use of venues for sport development, and getting involved with activities hosted at grassroots level.
Hugo Vermeulen, managing director of Cool Fresh, which remains the only fresh produce operator in Europe to be formally certified according to the CSR Performance Ladder 4 management standard, said South Africa had a special place in the hearts of people at his company.
He praised Capespan for joining the project without hesitation, and pointed out that Cool Fresh’s experience in social projects in South Africa over a period of almost 15 years had shown that “unselfish involvement in social projects can create waves of synergy”.
As an example, he cited a partnership between Little Libraries and Stars in their Eyes that, he said, had created support from Cool Fresh clients in many countries and resulted in the concept of “good fruit” taking on a different meaning.