Rosie, Year 10, explores how a blueberry farm run by her great-aunt empowers women from the local township in Hermanus, South Africa.
Feminist blueberries – a surprising concept! One I found to be very real during half-term, while visiting my great-aunt Alison. Here, I discovered the opportunities which blueberries provide, helping and empowering the lives of women in the area.
Customarily, in the South African agriculture, the women are the workers, while the men make decisions and look after the cattle. As Alison explained to me, there is a common danger for married women in this, that being that their husbands take away their financial freedom. Whilst this is not always the case, it does however restrain many women from choosing to marry in the first place. As a result of this, my aunt Alison tries to employ as many women so that the money could be sure to go straight towards the household – keeping a family fed and looked after.
On the farm there are six permanent jobs held by women, including driving tractors attending the pump house and ensuring that the irrigation systems are clean. However, come high season Alison will employ around 150 women for picking, packing and checking. Normally, these women are from the local area and take the bus to and from the farm; their day typically starting at around 6am and finishing at 2:30pm, allowing them to greet their children when they come home from school.
The women from these local communities – picking up fruit such as grapes and apples – have very little work as it is seasonal. Typically, the picking of fruit lasts from February through to March or April, and this is then followed by a long period of unemployment. By working on the blueberry farm, 150 of these women have an extra four months of employment. In addition to this they are also provided with casual labour, such as weeding or planting new plants, thus making a hugely positive impact on their income.
In South Africa, Monday has a reputation for being a very slow-moving day. Many men either work slowly and without efficiency or don’t turn up, due to hangovers from the weekend. However, Alison does not find this to be the case for her ladies at all. She complimented their fast learning and ability to fill buckets speedily to reach the bonus, while still staying careful and particular when sorting each individual berry.
A huge part of the female empowerment at work here is Alison herself. It is her drive and passion in running the farm that benefits and gives a purpose to so many other women in the area, and makes her a very inspirational woman. There is no doubt that Alison and her ladies grow some pretty special blueberries. Having been named the best blueberry suppliers in South Africa last year after only their first year of growing, I can certainly testify, having tried them myself, that these blueberries are the most delicious I have ever tasted.