Philanthropy is a noble pursuit, but truly investing in people takes time, effort and money. The new-look VinPro Foundation is now even better geared to ensure that people excellence remains at the core of a sustainable South African wine industry.

The VinPro Foundation, a non-profit organisation established by the wine industry body VinPro in 2013, boasts a new CEO and board of directors. Their vision? To implement a revised strategy to develop, support and improve the sustainability of the wine industry and its related stakeholders by promoting and backing people excellence.

It makes business sense

Early childhood development, skills and leadership development and harm reduction – these three focus areas of the VinPro Foundation often have an emotional connection. “However, adopt a fresh perspective and you realise that investing in people makes good business sense,” newly elected VinPro Foundation CEO Unathi Mantshongo says. “A healthy, motivated and empowered workforce leads to greater productivity and long-term sustainability.”

The foundation has shifted its focus from appealing to the conscience of suppliers only to a more holistic, industry-driven strategy that’s aligned with the Wise framework and better resonates with businesses’ strategies and B-BBEE requirements.

“When spent on measurable causes, contributions count towards skills, enterprise and socioeconomic development,” Unathi says. “The main yardstick for any contribution to count towards your B-BBEE scorecard (socioeconomic development element) is that it must be towards an income generating activity for beneficiaries.”

The foundation has implemented more effective impact-monitoring tools to ensure the best outcomes versus outputs. Bursary holders for instance now have contracts to ensure succession and transformation, and the board has been transformed to incorporate development expertise, gender, youth and racial diversity.

Walking the talk

“The VinPro Foundation’s board is a mix of transformation specialists who are all passionate about people development and those who’ve lived the transformation story,” Unathi says.

Besides Unathi there are two other new board members. Simonsig tasting room manager Denzel Swarts has experience in youth development and Faith Brown, DOCKDA Rural Development Agency director, has a wealth of knowledge in socioeconomic upliftment. Board chairperson Sharon February is a VinPro specialist director with extensive involvement in programmes aimed at the sustainable development of the agricultural sector.

Celebrate success

Unathi says although there are challenges, the industry needs to celebrate each success. “We see social workers making a difference in farm dwellers’ lives and educating crèche facilitators on the best age-appropriate child-minding tools using limited resources. Bursary graduates receive meaningful employment in the wine industry and 126 VinPro members received a subsidy from the foundation in 2016/17 for obtaining ethical accreditation from the Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trading Association (Wieta).”

VinPro Foundation Projects:

Early childhood development: The Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) and VinPro Foundation Wine Project has appointed social workers operating in Paarl, Wellington, Perdeberg, Robertson, Ashton and the Breedekloof.

Skills and leadership development: Bursaries for qualifications in agricultural sciences at CPUT, Stellenbosch University and Elsenburg Agricultural College, and the University of Cape Town GSB Wine Business Management course. Subsidies are provided for vineyard and cellar worker training and the foundation sponsors Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) students. We also support the CWG’s Protégé programme.

Harm reduction: Encouraging safe, productive work environments through subsidies for VinPro members’ first (50%) and second (25%) Wieta audit fee.

 About Unathi

Recently appointed VinPro Foundation CEO is an experienced viticulturist and doubles as VinPro’s transformation and development officer.

Where did it all start? I was born and raised in the Eastern Cape and we moved to Boksburg when I was in high school. After matriculating, we had no funds for me to continue with studies, so I applied for bursaries everywhere. I was fortunate to receive a bursary from the national department of agriculture to study viticulture and oenology at Stellenbosch University and four years later I joined KWV as a viticulturist. In my time there and as viticulturist at Nederburg I obtained postgraduate qualifications in viticulture and project management. However, transformation and the development of people remain my true passion and I joined VinPro two years ago to focus on this new journey.

What are the biggest challenges in your field? Producers and wineries are struggling financially and when this happens people development and training are often overlooked. The industry functions in micro-communities where sometimes the work, crèche, home and even church are in the same yard! This is a unique set-up which requires a special approach when implementing projects, specifically with regard to substance abuse. Literacy levels are low and many historically disadvantaged people don’t even know that wine studies are an option.

How can these obstacles be overcome? South Africa produces superb quality wines which annually receive recognition and win awards globally, but this is still not reflected in the price that people are willing to pay for our wines. The industry has to be financially healthy in order to invest further in skills development and job creation. In a micro-community, the work done by a single social worker to break the vicious trap of substance abuse in a family has legacy-changing impact potential. More crucial for me is that it creates a platform for all other initiatives. A centralised platform like the Learner Management System will expose wine industry employees to training opportunities irrespective of literacy levels across the value chain.

How can the industry become involved? Tell your supplier to contact us now! There are hundreds of suppliers in trades from glass, cork, barrels and closures to soil preparation, HR and nurseries. Five hundred suppliers at an investment of R10 000 per supplier per year could change the landscape in the winelands in terms of people support and development. This would have an impact on their clients’ bottomline by building a knowledgeable productive workforce.

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