The South African wine industry has suffered immense losses amidst a world pandemic and the Government's drastic measures to curb the virus's spread. Finally, the plea to lift the third alcohol ban has been hearkened to, and the camaraderie between wine industry bodies and financial and educational institutions can once again reach full momentum. This includes creative projects with the common goal of striving towards meaningful transformation and helping young people pursue their dreams.
Since its inception in 2006, the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) Protégé Programme has established itself as the most successful skills development programme in the South African wine industry. The programme has enrolled 37 Protégés, 24 of whom are now working in the South African wine industry. The programme harbours the different skill sets of young talented people who are mentored by Guild members over a three-year period.
November 2020 saw the launch of the Guild's new Buddy Project that will diversify this programme even further by creating another support channel and enticing talented individuals to apply for the Protégé Programme. Magda Vorster, facilitator of the Protégé Programme, says the Buddy Project serves as a supportive network between current Protégés and winemaking and viticulture students. "It also seeks out potential future candidates from Stellenbosch University and Elsenburg College. The aim is to provide collegiate support to keep the students passionate and excited about winemaking and to give advice should they need it."
Vorster is thrilled about the Buddy Project's success and the excitement it has ignited among the students since its launch at Hartenberg Estate last year. Nine students from Stellenbosch University attended the event that included inspirational talks from the Guild's first female Protégé and now head Winemaker at Adama wines Praisy Dlamini, and Ntsiki Biyela, who became the first black female winemaker in South Africa. The main event was the 5-minute speed-meeting sessions where the students had the opportunity to get to know the Protégés and choose their 2021 Buddy. "Each quarter, the students and their Protégé "buddies" will get together via scheduled virtual events or at CWG winemakers' wine farms where they will be given cellar and vineyard tours, a tutored wine tasting by a Guild Member and a dinner."
The 2021 Buddy Project and learner programme have been funded by Nedbank, sponsor of the annual Nedbank CWG Auction, and Khensani Nobanda, Group Executive for Marketing and Corporate Affairs Nedbank, shared her enthusiasm. "I am extremely excited about the new buddy project. It promises a unique opportunity for young, aspirant South African winemakers who hail from historically disadvantaged backgrounds and marks the beginning of a journey to become experts in their craft and possibly work alongside highly respected CWG members. This initiative is very close to Nedbank's heart as it speaks not only to possible job creation but our commitment to supporting and transforming South Africa's wine industry", said Nobanda.
Prof Maret du Toit, Head of the Department of Viticulture and Oenology, believes that the Buddy initiative will be a tremendous game-changer for undergraduate students to introduce them to the industry and build their networks early in their degree. “This exposure to industry will assist the students to identify a suitable farm for their final year internship with the inputs and insights of the Protégés’ experience. I think adding this mentorship aspect to the Protégés will benefit their own personal growth. I see this partnership as a win-win for all involved,” du Toit added.
The Buddy Project stems from a successful event in 2019 when 19 learners from across the country were brought to the Cape. In partnership between Stellenbosch University, Elsenburg College and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, it gave them a sneak preview of what to expect should they choose winemaking as their university degree. Hailing from as far as Mampoi High School in Mangaung; Nsikayendule High School in Ulundi; Phiriphiri Secondary School in Limpopo; and Gerrit Maritz High School in Pretoria, nine of these young learners are now currently studying winemaking at Stellenbosch University. The prerogative sees more black females enter a winemaking career, and the CWG is taking the lead in creating opportunities for these learners.
Initiatives like this help demystify the agricultural sector and highlight an exciting career field, Vorster added. "We will continue on this path to inspire young talent and host 30 learners in the Cape between 28 June and 2 July 2021. Whether this will be in a similar format to 2019 or presented as an exciting virtual event will be determined based on the safest and most practical solution under the current circumstances. This will include a behind-the-scenes glance of what a career in winemaking and viticulture entails and past and present Protégés will be available to answer questions and share their experiences. We trust this will encourage them to sign up for the Protégé Programme when they graduate."