Ysterfontein Guest Farm

Ysterfontein and Fairtrade, Perfect Synergy

Ysterfontein is located near Clanwilliam, about 230km north from Cape Town, on the road to Lambert's Bay. The farm covers an area of about 4000ha of which 2200ha is planted with Rooibos. Rooibos, Aspalathus linearis, is an indigenous shrub-like plant with delicate branches that bear soft, needle-like leaves that are used to produce a popular tea that is enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Rooibos only grows naturally in a small area in the Cederberg Mountains of the Western Cape of South Africa and no alternative source of supply of this unique product is available anywhere else on earth.

Ysterfontein’s Workers Group

In 2006, Ysterfontein established the Workers Group and set up a system whereby the farm workers received a percentage of the Rooibos yield. Each year since then, a section of the planting was demarcated and apportioned to the Workers Group. The yield from this section was processed separately from the rest of the harvest at Rooibos Limited and the revenue from the sales went into a separate bank account, managed by the Workers Group, and at the end of the year the earnings were distributed amongst the workers. This was income over and above the salaries and bonuses that the workers were entitled to. This gave the 80 plus permanent workers a vested interest in the success of the farm and a sense of co-ownership.

Creating the best possible living conditions for his workers has always been a priority for the owner Willie Nel. He is one of the few farmers in the area who is still building houses for his labourers. “I believe that if you look after the needs of your valued workers you will be repaid with their loyalty and hard work” says Willie. The spacious homes have running water, electricity, warm water geysers and modern bathroom and kitchen fittings.

Looking for a way to further empower his workers, Willie Nel and the Workers Group investigated different business models and decided on Fairtrade as the way forward. In 2015 the labourers of Ysterfontein formed a Fairtrade-approved committee and decided to produce Rooibos in a sustainable way that would better the lives of the workers, which in turn would have a positive effect on the 80 families that depend on the farm.

Choosing Fairtrade as their future

The Fairtrade business model offers producers, traders and consumers a way to directly engage in the fight against poverty and exploitation: Fairtrade relies on a series of principles that guarantees fair deals for producers, rights for workers and protection of the environment.

When consumers purchase Fairtrade products, they are paying a social premium over and above the consumer price of the commodity. This social premium is reinvested in the communities that produced the commodity to improve their living standards. In the case of Ysterfontein Farm, the social premium is planned to be used for education, domestic upliftment and the accumulation of capital to buy assets and to fund retirement benefits.

The Ysterfontein Fairtrade Committee opted for Fairtrade’s small farmer system, formed a legal entity and applied for the Fairtrade certification. In 2017 Ysterfontein passed the first audit with flying colours and are fully committed to adhere to the sustainability standards laid down by Fairtrade and to measure up to Fairtrade’s stringent annual audits, to the benefit of everyone involved.

Ysterfontein’s labourer-farmers are the real beneficiaries of the Fairtrade system. This is where the world can see the benefits of the social premium they paid for the Fairtrade products.

Managing their own business

The Ysterfontein Fairtrade Committee is transparently managed by a democratically elected committee of seven members. They are responsible for the management and production of the Organic Rooibos on this Fairtrade certified farm. Hence, they have a vested interest in making it work for them and their families.

The statutes of the committee determine the functions of its members, including the role of the chairperson, vice-chairperson and financial manager. They are also guided by their Code of Conduct, Fairtrade’s sustainability standards and other industry guidelines and ethical standards, including those of Rooibos Limited and the UTZ certification agency.

The committee will be meeting 4 times a year to ensure the smooth running of the farm and address the needs of the Ysterfontein community. They will be identifying short-term and long-term needs and prioritising the allocation of funds, raised through the Fairtrade premium.

At the heart of it all, the Fairtrade Committee is about creating a sustainable future as well as generating tangible benefits for their community.

  • Investing in education: Although it is only the first year in the life of the Ysterfontein Fairtrade Committee, there is no doubt that one of the priorities will be to invest a portion of the profits in the education of their children. This includes school fees, school clothes, crèche fees and adult education.  The vision is to build a crèche for the young ones and a learning centre for older learners with computer equipment that will allow students to go on-line for research and furthering their studies.
  • Social upliftment: The Fairtrade Committee will also be committed to improving the conditions and opportunities for individuals and the Ysterfontein community on an on-going basis. Once the committee has received the first dividends, they will look at how best to use the funds for meeting the needs of their community.

Rooibos Limited, an important link in the value chain

Rooibos Limited is the world’s biggest supplier of South Africa’s indigenous Rooibos tea and related products. The company has market share of about 95% in the local market and up to 60% internationally. The company’s head office is in Clanwilliam, about 15km east of Ysterfontein Farm.

Rooibos Ltd markets and sells the Fairtrade Rooibos produced by the Ysterfontein farmers, and is proud to form part of the value chain of the Ysterfontein Fairtrade Committee. The company supports the transformation brought about by the Fairtrade initiative and the management and technical skills transfer that takes place.

For more information on Rooibos Ltd visit:

Fairtrade is about improving the quality of lives and providing sustainable benefits to the farming community, and Ysterfontein is a perfect example where the desire to provide a better tomorrow for their children is being realised.

For more information about Fairtrade visit:


Ysterfontein Guest Farm
Clanwilliam, Western Cape
South Africa

PO Box 221
8135 South Africa

+27 27 482 2512 (tel)
E-mail: guestfarm@ysterfontein.co.za
GPS Coordinates: -32.16377,18.77821