Groundcover has always strived to be a progressive and socially responsible enterprise. In keeping with our small business ethic of ‘thinking globally and acting locally’, we choose to focus our corporate responsibility efforts on our immediate community and environment.
Most of our workers have been recruited locally, and many live on our farm. Our relationships are based on respect and mutual trust, and we enjoy a very informal working environment. Over the years, we have assisted local entrepreneurs to establish leatherwork, building, maintenance, taxi, trading and music businesses.
We believe that the education of young people — our future workers and leaders — holds the most promise for social and economic transformation in our community and our country. This is therefore our priority area of investment.
We subsidise the cost of school fees, books and extramural activities of our workers’ children, and provide them with school transportation. Amanda runs a homework and study class for 15 primary and secondary schoolchildren.
The Groundcover Landrover is well known in Howick carting children to and from extra mural activities, sports matches and school events.
Many kids are excelling in their studies and in sport, with two now enrolled at tertiary institutions. Amanda is also the long-serving chairperson of the Currys Post Educational Trust, an initiative of local residents that helped establish, and now manages and raises funds for, two primary and two pre-primary schools in nearby communities.
We also send out all our hand lacing of shoes to the local community to do at home
We take our duty as stewards of our 160ha farm very seriously. Since we arrived we have been clearing our valley of alien vegetation, and have planted hundreds of indigenous trees. As a business we recycle our waste and take active part in our Conservancy’s efforts to keep Currys Post clean, safe and wildlife-friendly.
From the beginning, we have offered our customers the opportunity to swop their shoebox’s for a free keyring, allowing us to re-use the cardboard boxes over and over again. Most people are happy with this exchange, and we send them on their way, with their shoes (and keyring) packed in a brown paper bag.
We have a shoe recycling box in our shop where you can drop off your old shoes. Where possible, these are patched up and distributed to people in need. We have placed bins outside our shop and factory to separate glass, paper, plastic and cans. These are collected monthly by Wildlands Trust and taken away for recycling. Our organic waste is composted for our veggie garden.
We live our philosophy: Think globally, Act locally
With the exception of our imported Italian soles, all our raw materials are sourced from local suppliers to minimise the carbon emissions from transport. We have recently put solar water heaters on all employees’ houses to save on electricity usage.
We have also installed a ram pump in the valley, made by local engineer Dillon Beyers from G-Force pumps. This is presently pumping 15000 litres a day using no electricity. Our 2014 tree-planting of 100 indigenous trees has gone well, as we enter spring, so the trees are budding!
Many centuries ago, a very special breed of cattle arrived in southern Africa. They were named after the Nguni people who migrated with their herds from the north central and eastern regions of the continent, crossing the Zambezi around 600 CE and settling in much of present-day South Africa.
Evolved from the Sanga longhorn cattle — as depicted in 8000-year-old rock art in Lybia and the Sahara, and later in the Egyptian pyramids and in San rock art — the Nguni are a very hardy breed. On top of their slow, epic journey through Africa, they have had 1400 years to adapt to southern Africa’s extreme environmental conditions.
Nguni are a favoured breed among the indigenous peoples of the region. They feature prominently in the culture, folklore and traditional economy of the Zulu. Each of the different Nguni skin patterns, for example, is identified in Zulu with names relating to daily life or the natural environment, such as “lark’s egg”, “sugar bean” or “dregs of the sorghum porridge”.
Wars and conflicts during the colonial period, and the introduction of “improved”, European breeds (along with their diseases), decimated the indigenous herds. Fortunately, the Nguni’s many attributes — including disease resistance, high fertility, easy temperament and adaptability, quality meat and beautiful hides — together with the special place they occupy in the lives and cultures of our peoples, have all contributed to their survival and growth as a species.
The Groundcover herd
In 1999, we sold our Sussex cattle and bought a registered Nguni herd from a breeder near Phongola. Our reasoning was simply that we wanted beautiful and hardy cattle. Little did we know that the demand for Nguni as a sensible production animal — as well as for Nguni skins and fashion accessories — was going to skyrocket within a few years.
Today we have around ninety breeding cattle, which we trade at an annual breeders sale in nearby Mooi River. We have collected outstanding animals of different patterns and colours. As a result, ours is perhaps the most photographed, painted and admired herd in the country. We are members of the KZN Nguni Club and are proud to be involved in the preservation of this remarkable breed.