Field Research in the Western Cape, South Africa
In March of 2016, I took my second exploratory research trip to the Western Cape Region of South Africa (you can read more about the motivation for my year of exploratory field research here).
Located northeast of Cape Town, the Western Cape has been a wine region for over 400 years. The region strongly identifies with its wine history. The area was colonized by the Dutch and later the British, the original vines were planted by French immigrants. The industry has some serious social concerns, including a history of slave labor, paternalism, and apartheid. The wine industry suffered in reputation and profitability during apartheid, when the government mandated what could be planted and where. In addition, there were international sanctions on South African products. Grape quality was low, as was economic value.
The post- apartheid era has brought new government, land ownership reform, labor laws, and privatization of natural resource management. The region has experienced significant and prolonged drought, combined with a rapid population growth. Wine farms in the Western Cape often rely on other sources of income from restaurants and lodging for tourists to remain solvent financially. The quality of wine grapes and their reputation is slowly improving in international markets.
While there I interviewed local knowledge holders in the wine industry, government and conservation. The results of this research resulted in the published chapter in the book Social Sustainability in the Global Wine Industry, which you can find here. You can scroll through the slide show to the right to see images of the trip.