WWF-SA is launching a sustainability initiative tailored to the South African fruit sector, and has engaged Blue North Sustainability (Pty) Ltd to assist in its development and implementation. The Sustainable Fruit Initiative (SFI) is focussed on supporting the achievement of environmentally sustainable farming in the fruit industry, and will ultimately become the environmental “pillar” of SIZA (Sustainable Fruit Initiative South Africa, which is socially focused).
The success of this initiative obviously hinges on buy-in from key industry stakeholders. To this end, WWF-SA is liaising closely with all of the industry’s various Grower Associations and Fruit South Africa, as well as with the SIZA initiative – all of whom have endorsed the development of the SFI.
In addition to this industry-level engagement process, WWF-SA will be conducting a pilot program in four key fruit producing regions, with the main participants being fruit farmers in those regions. These pilots are seen as critical to ensuring that the SFI is a relevant and value-adding program at farm-level. The objectives of the pilots include:
- To secure the buy-in of the industry’s farmers to the SFI;
- To get the direct input from farmers into the process, tools, reference-code and resources of the SFI.
- To enable the SFI to reflect the environmental risks, challenges and opportunities relevant to each specific region.
Once the SFI pilots are completed, the SFI reference-code will pass through the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), an international benchmarking process through which the SFI will be recognised as being equivalent to other environmental standards and certification schemes. The goal being that the SFI satisfies all current and future environmental certification requirements, and that, as with the social-compliance programme of SIZA, the risk of duplication of certification and compliance schemes is avoided.
The four pilot fruit growing regions that have been earmarked are the Palmiet (Elgin/Grabouw), Olifants, Gamtoos, and Nkomati river catchments. The first pilot is planned for the Palmiet catchment and is scheduled to coincide as far as possible with the “off-season” in this region. The Palmiet region pilots will be conducted through four workshops over the course of three months between end August and the end of November 2013.