Westfalia: Empowerment through education

Published: 16-Mar-2023

In the past three years in South Africa Westfalia has awarded 45 bursaries, welcomed 28 in-service participants and 45 hosted learners

Westfalia Fruit, the leading multinational supplier of avocados and a range of fresh vegetables and fruit, is expanding its industry leading focus on education and wellbeing in Africa, Latin America and beyond.

Education is a powerful tool that changes lives and the world over. The legacy of Westfalia’s iconic founder, Dr. Hans Merensky, is the Foundation he created to provide support for students to study a range of subjects, with a focus on agriculture-related disciplines. In line with its support of the UN’s Global Goals, Westfalia continues to bring this vision to life with programmes run by the company and its partners.

Schooling in South Africa 

In the past three years in South Africa, for example, Westfalia has awarded 45 bursaries, welcomed 28 in-service participants and 45 hosted learners, and enrolled more than 100 candidates in apprenticeship and learnership programmes, many of whom were unemployed. 24 individuals completed graduate development programmes and at least six former participants have been promoted to leadership roles within the company.

One candidate, who joined Westfalia as an intern on the Graduate Development Programme is Tshepang Mahloane based in South Africa, Tshepang added: “I benefited significantly from the graduate development programme and was exposed to various other leadership and management courses. It was also helpful to tap into the experience and wisdom of other team members from diverse backgrounds”. Tshepang’s career at Westfalia continues to develop, with his most recent promotion to Factory Manager.

Westfalia also has a focus on empowering people living with disabilities. Ten learners have been enrolled in a program aimed at developing and enhancing their agricultural skills, including plant production leadership. Overall, more than 150 young people have benefitted from work based graduate schemes and internship programmes successfully embarking on careers in fields including medicine, agriculture, education and finance.

Schools, universities, libraries and charities were among the grateful beneficiaries of his generosity, and we are proud to be continuing this tradition

Another key initiative is focused on early childhood development. For almost 20 years, centres have been established in both the Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces aimed at creating a safe environment for children while their parents are at work. The positive impact is also a benefit to the local community, with 30% of the children attending from local villages. The centres also help improve local food security and importantly, teach young children English and other foundation skills, giving them a head start once they start school. More than 1,000 children and 600 families have benefitted from the program since 2006. In 2022 the Limpopo centre achieved accreditation to teach the first year primary school syllabus. Over the next few years the education team will be building on that success to offer additional years education. In a remote, agricultural area such as Tzaneen accessible education for the local community and child care is often a challenge.

School age children are also assisted with after school clubs where they have library and internet access, learn to use computers and receive homework help. Counselling services are also available for young people to support their overall wellbeing and career days held for students considering their career choices.

Lifelong learning in Latin America

Westfalia also runs education programs across Latin America to help participants reach their full potential.

In Chile, as part of the ‘Sembrando Futuro – Seeding project’ the company is working with several schools focussing on the environment and education. Projects include the creation of vegetable gardens, composting areas and greenhouses with an emphasis on growing crops responsibly and sustainably.

In both Chile and Colombia, the company supports colleagues who have been unable to complete their school education by supporting them to study over a year, creating more opportunities for them and their families as they are able to develop their employment prospects.

“To this day individuals across the globe continue to benefit from our founder, Dr Merensky’s, strong ethic of ‘giving back’ – the legacy he crafted in making education and development accessible for employees and communities alike. Schools, universities, libraries and charities were among the grateful beneficiaries of his generosity, and we are proud to be continuing this tradition,” said Hans Eben CEO, South America, Westfalia Fruit Group.

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