'Alternative foods' and community-based development: Rooibos tea production in South Africa's West Coast Mountains

Etienne Nel, Tony Binns, David Bek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Rooibos tee (red bush tea) (Aspalathus linearis, Fabaceae), which is indigenous only to the Cedarberg and neighbouring mountains of South Africa, has become popular internationally as a result of its apparent health-giving properties. Situated within the broader contexts of alternative food networks, alternate economic spaces and local/community-based development, this paper examines how two marginalised communities have successfully penetrated international markets by supplying organically produced rooibos tea which is certified by the international Fairtrade system. Focusing on the cases of Wupperthal and Heiveld, the paper explores the dynamics of the production and marketing process and the key variables involved. Success has been achieved through active NGO support, which has engaged with local skills and social capital, and has led to significant social and economic upliftment among the participating communities. The experience illustrates how, given the right conditions, poor communities in the South might participate successfully in global alternative food networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-129
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Geography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Alternate economic spaces
  • Alternative food initiatives
  • Community-based development
  • Fairtrade
  • NGOs
  • Rooibos tea
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Environmental Science(all)


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