On the windswept plateau of the South Bokkeveld in the Northern Cape lies the small village of Nieuwoudtville. Situated on the rim of the western Karoo, the vegetation here is rich in succulents, geophytes and fynbos. Despite the natural beauty of this land, the climate is harsh with little rainfall, and poverty has long dogged the local communities. But thriving in this unforgiving terrain are vast tracts of wild rooibos (red bush), and it is from this indigenous plant that many local farmers are making a living exporting their organic, antioxidant-rich herbal tea to international markets.
The Heiveld Co-operative started in 2001 with 14 members. In 2009, funding of R200 000 by the Old Mutual Foundation contributed to the purchase of a tractor and construction of a second tea court (a flat open area on which the chopped rooibos is left to 'sweat' and dry), increasing production and improving efficiency. The co-operative has now grown to 65 members and exports high quality organic rooibos tea to niche fair trade and organic markets in the northern hemisphere.
© Photography by the Old Mutual Foundation & Mark Wessels
Sometimes when we're chopping the fynbos you can smell that it's started to sweat. It's as if it's so ready, it almost wants to become tea.
Official tea maker for the Heiveld Co-operative.